Andrew Coster is denying police are too soft as the anti-COVID vaccine mandate protest enters its 13th day outside Parliament.
The Police Commissioner insisted that "de-escalation" is still the best path to a resolution but notes the protest is "unlawful and unreasonable" and has "clearly… crossed the line".
During an interview with TVNZ's Q+A, Coster was asked if he was too soft. "No," Coster responded. "We are doing what we believe is the right thing to do to achieve the safest outcome from everyone involved in this situation."
He said the protest was "really confronting".
"It's really in your face for those who are close to it," Coster told Q+A.
"This protest is pretty unprecedented in terms of its nature and tactics… we can look at it in hindsight now and go, 'It shouldn't have got to this', but if we look at the decision points along the way, I'm confident the right things have been done at the right time."
Coster told TVNZ "some people might say" police should have moved in on the first night when protesters began erecting tents but "the level of force that we would have had to use to achieve success… would have been unacceptable to most New Zealanders".
"There's no doubt that this protest is unlawful and unreasonable but our law does protect the right to protest and it's a balancing act between the matter being protested, the nature of the protest and the lawfulness and reasonableness of it," he said.
"Clearly, this protest has crossed a line - our focus right now is on making sure we can get the safest resolution for all concerned."
On Friday, Wellington leaders including MPs, Mayors, councillors and school principals issued a joint statement calling for the protests to end.