‘Greedy lying racists’, ‘Kill the bill’, say thousands of NZ protesters over fast track draft

"Corrupt by nature" . . . The massive protest against New Zealand's controversial #FastTrackBill in Auckland today. Image: David Robie/APR

Asia Pacific Report

About 20,000 protesters marched through the heart of New Zealand’s largest city Auckland today demonstrating against the unpopular Fast Track Approvals Bill that critics fear will ruin the country’s environment, undermine the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi with indigenous Māori, and open the door to corruption.

Holding placards declaring the coalition government is “on the fast track to hell”, “Greedy lying racists”, “Preserve our reserves”, “Kill the bill”, “Climate justice now”, “I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues”, and other slogans such as “Ministers’ corruption = Nature’s destruction”, the protesters stretched 2km from Aotea Square down Queen St to the harbourside Te Komititanga Square.

One of the biggest banners, on a stunning green background, said “Toitu Te Tiriti: Toitu Te Taiao” — “Honour the treaty: Save the planet”.

Speaker after speaker warned about the risks of the draft legislation placing unprecedented power in the hands of three cabinet ministers to fast track development proposals with limited review processes and political oversight.

The bill states that its purpose “is to provide a streamlined decision-making process to facilitate the delivery of infrastructure and development projects with significant regional or national benefits”.

A former Green Party co-leader, Russel Norman, who is currently Greenpeace Aotearoa executive director, said the the draft law would be damaging for the country’s environment. He called on the protesters to fight against it.

“We must stop those who would destroy nature for profit,” he said.

“The vast majority of New Zealanders — nine out of 10 people, when you survey them — say they do not want development that causes more destruction of nature.”

Other protesters on he march against the “War on Nature” included Forest and Bird chief executive Nicola Toki and actress Robyn Malcolm.

RNZ News reports that Norman said: “Expect resistance from the people of Aotearoa. There will be no seabed mining off the coast of Taranaki. There will be no new coal mines in pristine native forest.

“We will stop them — just like we stopped the oil exploration companies. We disrupted them until they gave up.”

The government would be on the wrong side of history if it ignored protesters, Norman said.

The "Stop the Fast Track Bill" protest in Auckland
The “Stop the Fast Track Bill” protest in Auckland today. Image: David Robie/APR

Public service job cuts ‘deeply distressing’
In Wellington, reports RNZ News, thousands of people congregated in the city to protest government cuts to public service jobs.

Protesters met at the Pukeahu National War Memorial for speeches before walking down to the waterfront.

Public Service Association spokesperson Fleur Fitzsimons told the crowd that everyone at the rally was sending a message of resistance, opposition and protest to the government.

She accused the coalition government of having an agenda against the public service, and said the union was seeing the destructive impact of government policies first hand.

“It is causing grief, anguish, stress, emotional collapse,” she said.

“It is deeply distressing to the workers who are losing their jobs. They are not only distressed for themselves, and their families, but they are deeply worried about what will happen to the important work they are doing on behalf of us all.”

A protester holds a "Fast track dead end" placard
A protester holds a “Fast track dead end” placard in Auckland’s Commercial Bay today. Image: David Robie/APR
Protester Ruth reminds the NZ government "We are the people"
Protester Ruth reminds the NZ government “We are the people”. Image: David Robie/APR
The "villains" at today's protest
The “villains” at today’s protest . . . Prime Minister Christopher Luxon (from left), Infrastructure Minister Chris Bishop and Regional Development Minister Shane Jones. Image: David Robie/APR
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