All southbound traffic lanes on State Highway One over the Auckland Harbour Bridge have now reopened after they were closed while New Zealand anti-mandate protesters marched across the bridge.
The southbound lanes of the bridge were closed for about an hour and a half while the protesters marched from the North Shore to central Auckland.
The protesters then gathered in Victoria Park and the bridge lanes and motorway have reopened.
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Thousands of anti-mandate protesters marched onto the bridge from the North Shore late this morning, chanting “mandates gone, first of March”.
The protest came as the Ministry of Health reports a record 13,606 new community cases of covid-19 in New Zealand today, with 263 people in hospital — five of them in intensive care units (ICU).
In a statement, the ministry said 9262 of the new cases were in the Auckland region.
Waka Kotahi said the protesters had unlawfully entered the state highway network on foot.
This morning hundreds of people gathered at Onepoto Domain at the northern end of the bridge and then set out towards the bridge.
Māori Wardens told RNZ they were escorting the protesters for safety reasons.
Organised by Destiny Church coalition
The march had been organised by Destiny Church’s Freedoms and Rights Coalition.
In a statement, police said the safety of staff, road users and protesters was the priority.
They would actively engage with the protesters to prevent them crossing the bridge due to the significant safety risks posed.
Despite the safety concerns, protest organisers said they had worked with the police on traffic management.
The protesters support the the Parliament occupation in Wellington. Police have described that protest as “no longer safe for families”.
Tents set up in Auckland Domain
The police later said a small group of protesters remained at Auckland Domain after marching over the Harbour Bridge earlier today.
Videos on social media showed protesters in the Domain putting up a number of tents.
The police and Auckland Council have been in talks with protest leaders, who had promised to leave by 9pm.
In a video, one protester claimed to have mana whenua status, and that they were occupying a pā site at the Domain.
They expected the police to come to try to evict them.
There were children on the site.
Auckland Council said it had serious concerns the gathering could become a super-spreading event.
It said that while it respected the right to peaceful assembly, it was concerned about the health risk.
Protesters have been gathered at Parliament in Wellington for more than two weeks, and sparked similar protests around the country.
‘Go home’ petition gains 140,000 signatures
Meanwhile, the person who launched the “Tell the Wellington Protestors to Go Home — They are NOT the majority” petition which has gathered more than 140,000 signatures has spoken out about the Parliament grounds occupation.
Named as James Black (not his real name), he said in an “update” that the petition had “triggered media interest and analysis and exposure [about] the elements of the protest that are dangerous.
“As the protest has unfolded, it’s become more and more obvious to everyone that there are seriously unhinged but well-funded elements at play here using innocents and the gullible, children and whanau as puppets for their agenda of destabilisation.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.