Angry TPP protesters block motorways

Angry TPP protesters block motorways

Protest organiser for Real Choice Julia Espinoza says she is "absolutely wrapt" with how today's Trans Pacific Partnership march played out in central Auckland following the controversial signing of the 12-nation agreement.

"We didn't know how many people to expect on the day, but we've had thousands…throughout the day."

We've had heaps of people come and join us and really good public support as well."

Ms Espinoza says they set out to hold a peaceful protest and that had been blown out of proportion by the media and the police.

"No one was planning to go and riot anywhere, we had no intention of trying to get into SkyCity. We wanted to go and show that direct action does work in a peaceful manner.

We made lots of noise and a really strong message to those leaders that we don't want this agreement."

Police warned motorists of angry TPP demonstrators blocking the Harbour Bridge off-ramps, while one group stopped traffic entering the southern motorway.

Break-away groups have forced major routes to come to a stand-still, forcing major delays for vehicles crossing the Harbour Bridge and trying to navigate Queen St. 

Police claim some are running into traffic without warning.

Newshub reporter Lisa Owen says protesters are "causing maximum disruption with a minimum group of people" and exhausting police resources.

The intersection is close-by to the police station, and another van-load of officers has been deployed to meet the protesters.

 

Protesters earlier sat down, linked arms, and refused to budge leaving a long tailback of vehicles.

 

Outside SkyCity - where officials from 12 nations signed the controversial document- there was a stand off with police who barricaded the doors.

Hikoi joined the TPP march along Queen St from Aotea Square at midday following the signing of the Trans Pacific Partnership.

 

The march has ended at Britomart, where protesters have taken over the street.

Angry TPP protesters block motorways

(Billy Paine / Newshub)

Meanwhile other protesters have blocked the Custom St and Queen St intersection, as well as the intersection between Victoria and Albert St.

Up to 100 protesters blocked traffic at the intersection at the top of Hobson St earlier this morning.

A group, calling itself Real Choice, organised an event leaving from Aotea Square aiming to create a "TPP-Free Zone" by "holding Federal St for as long as possible". 

Around 1500 people estimated to be in the area near Federal St in central Auckland.

RadioLIVE reporter Mitch McCann says he hasn't seen any physical altercations up to now.

He says the crowd is diverse, with a mix of elderly, young and a strong Maori contingent, and "colourful folk" are playing music and chanting.

As protesters moved off from Aotea Square for the first time this morning a lawyer advised the crowd of their rights, telling them to give only their name, address and date of birth, and to say nothing more.

A list of available lawyers was handed out to the crowd with legal advice and numbers to call.

The main entrance to the convention centre is on Federal St, although there is another entrance via Albert St.

"Direct action has shut down trade deals before and this is our opportunity to stop or delay proceedings, physically demonstrating we won't let them sign this agreement under our noses (sic)," the event's Facebook page says.

But despite the protests, the ink dried on the ceremonial signing of the agreement, though each signatory country still need to ratify it in their respective parliaments.

Angry TPP protesters block motorways

(Patrick Gower / Newshub)

Groups opposed to the deal cite a number of concerns including the secrecy in which the negotiations were done, its effects on government drug buying agency Pharmac, the erosion of the country's sovereignty and the ability of corporations to sue the Government.

But the deal has been backed by a number of business leaders because of its purported value of $2.7 billion to the New Zealand economy by 2030 -- just 1 percent of the country's GDP.

It opens up New Zealand exports to new markets including Japan and the United States, and an estimated 800 million new consumers.

Angry TPP protesters block motorways

New Zealand Trade Minister Todd McClay signs the TPP (Patrick Gower / Newshub)

The controversy over the TPP will roll on long after today's ceremonial signing and has already overshadowed Waitangi Day celebrations, which begin tomorrow.

Confusion reigned earlier this week over whether Prime Minister John Key would be allowed on to the lower marae at Waitangi at all because of Ngapuhi's opposition to the TPP.

Mr Key said he would not "gate-crash" the day's events if they did not want him there, though his "strong preference" would be to be there to talk about and defend the TPP.

A small powhiri will be held after Ngati Whatua said they initially didn't want to do.

A formal invitation to Mr Key was eventually extended, though the distrust from Maori about what it means for them remains and will likely dominate tomorrow's proceedings.

The trade deal may also be a little rocky in a number of other countries which are at today's signings, including the US, which has just entered an election year, and Canada's new Liberal government, which says it is pro-trade, but would carefully evaluate the deal signed by the former government.

US representative Michael Froman says he is confident it can be ratified in his country, despite the possibility it won't get through Congress.

The US senate has signalled to Obama it's not happy with the agreement.

And Canada representative Chrystia Freeland says there will be a full study and consultation before the deal is ratified.

Newshub.