Wellington councillors criticise Mayor Andy Foster over meeting with anti-mandate protesters

Some Wellington councillors are heavily criticising Mayor Andy Foster for meeting with anti-mandate protesters, calling it "extremely dangerous" and embarrassing. 

On Tuesday, Foster confirmed he had met with two people who were involved in the protest near Parliament. He said they described themselves as "influencers" and he wasn't sure if they were protest organisers. 

Foster's decision was met with criticism by councillors, with Nicola Young calling it “an embarrassment". 

"He seems to have forgotten he's Wellington's mayor, although probably not for much longer," Young told Stuff. 

Councillor Rebecca Matthews also hit out at the Mayor, saying she hopes he stays away from now on.

"Yesterday on the livestream I heard a speaker from the occupation talk about their meeting with the Mayor as a sign of their success. There is no doubt it encourages and legitimises their disruption to Wellington.

"I have zero interest in visiting the occupation or communicating with anybody in it. I don't want to try [to] understand them at this point, as they are disrupting our city and terrorising our people. 

"Wellingtonians don't want our leaders to meet them, they want them gone," Matthews tweeted.

Foster's decision was "abhorrent and an extremely dangerous behaviour", councillor Teri O'Neill told Stuff. The publication said several other councillors including Fleur Fitzsimons and Jill Day also criticised the move.

Even Deputy Mayor Sarah Free told Stuff she would have advised Foster against the meeting if she knew about it. 

But Foster has defended himself telling Newstalk ZB he had support from the police. 

"I got in touch with the police at the highest level and said, 'Look, do you think this is potentially valuable and helpful' and the answer was yes.

"The police are talking too and if they didn't think it was worth talking, the police wouldn't be doing it either," Foster told Newstalk ZB on Tuesday.

He said he respects the Government's decision not to engage with protesters but believes dialogue will help resolve the protest. 

"We can all stand on the sidelines and say, 'Please go' but that's not actually going to achieve that, it's only when you're getting in there and listening to people and talking to people when you actually have a chance of getting a result.

"We're seeing quite a lot of people - business leaders, iwi leaders, significant people and former Prime Ministers - that are saying that actually there needs to be some dialogue."

Jacinda Ardern has repeatedly refused to engage with protesters, instead telling them to go home. 

"My message would be to anyone who is down there who believes that they are part of a peaceful protest: that is not what we've seen today. I would encourage them to leave," the Prime Minister said. 

Violence erupted at the protest on Tuesday with three officers hospitalised after having an unknown substance thrown on them and a man arrested after trying to drive a car into cops. 

Earlier in the week police also had human waste thrown on them.

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