Protest funder hopes it will revive NZ’s $18 billion tourism industry

A street chair protest at the Parliament occupation
A street chair protest at the Parliament occupation ... earlier today one person was arrested after attempting to drive a car into a group of police officers, two others were also arrested for obstruction. Image: RNZ

RNZ News

One of the people funding New Zealand’s two-week-old Parliament grounds occupation says it makes no sense to maintain a quarantine system at the border now that covid-19 cases are rife in the community.

Red Stag, which has business interests in forestry, timber, property development, and tourism, is helping to fund the protesters’ efforts.

Chief executive Marty Verry said he hoped they could bring about changes in the government’s vaccine mandate and border policies.

Early today one person was arrested at the Parliament grounds protest after attempting to drive a car into a group of police officers. Two others were also arrested for obstruction as police described the protesters antics as “disgraceful”.

Police, some with shields, have been moving the concrete barriers to reduce the protesters’ ground around Parliament.

At least three officers needed medical attention after being sprayed with an unknown substance by protesters as they resisted the police actions.

The Ministry of Health reported today a record 2846 new community cases of covid-19 with 143 people in hospital with the virus

‘Not happy with antics’
Verry told RNZ Morning Report he did not support the protesters sending death threats to politicians and government workers.

“Of course I’m not happy with some of the antics – nobody is.”

However, at the same time the government had “restricted the movement and the ability for thousands of businesses to do business for the last few years”.

Verry would not say how much money he had donated to the protesters or how long he had been giving them money.

“For me the protest is a way to get the government to listen and to make changes earlier than it otherwise would,” he said.

“So for me the major axe to grind I’ve got is with regards to what I’m seeing as to whether there is any justification now to maintain a quarantine system at the border for international tourism.”

He said it had previously been an $18 billion earner for the country.

Supports protest to help economy
He supported protest if it could help resurrect a vital part of the economy, especially when rapid antigen tests could be used so readily to detect the virus among international travellers.

By his calculations one positive case would have got through the border using rapid antigen tests on Friday — the same day the country had 1929 community cases.

“So what’s one extra person coming in across the border to constrain an $18 billion sector…

“There is no justification for keeping the borders closed because we’ve got one extra person with a cold.”

Verry was contributing a sum of money that he said was “not a significant” amount to a website that was collecting donations to pay for the infrastructure at the Parliament grounds.

He expected his donation would pay for “food, toilets, shelter, whatever they want to put it to”.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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