Christchurch residents near anti-mandate protest occupied Cranmer Square say ongoing disruption is callous, selfish, driven some out of their homes

By Niva Chittock or RNZ

Residents living near the occupied Cranmer Square anti-mandate protest in Christchurch say the ongoing disruption and noise is callous and selfish, and has driven some to tears and out of their homes.

The Freedom and Rights Coalition has used the park for regular meetings since November 2021, but last month a permanent camp appeared.

Events at the park normally start in the morning and can last until late in the evening. They involve motorbikes, loud music, preaching and an entire stage set up in the park every week.

Residents said ongoing complaints to the authorities about the occupation go nowhere, but the City Council said without police involvement, all they can do is keep issuing fines.

Residents say ongoing protest disruption is gratuitous and antisocial

A Cranmer Square resident said they feel physically ill when they read statements about the anti-mandate protest being respectful.

The resident has anonymously written a scathing letter in response to anti-mandate protester's claims their occupation of the Christchurch park is peaceful.

In the letter, the resident said the group are only protesting the freedom of consequences for their actions.

"You have so much freedom that you can set up an illegal camp in a residential/primary-school area, and complain endlessly and noisily about not having freedom," it states.

"You even have the freedom to not get the vaccines. You just want to add freedom from consequence on top... at that point you're stepping on our freedom to not get infected by a dangerous virus..."

The resident believed the protest is not peaceful as constant car horns, loud music, chanting and yelling matches occur at all hours.

RNZ understands disruption from the group's occupation has resulted in tearful phone calls between residents and that some have moved out of their homes.

Another resident previously spoken to by RNZ said protesters had parked their cars up their driveway with dogs locked inside.

They said they then became worried for the dog's welfare but were afraid to speak out, for fear of retaliation - which was why no residents want to be identified in the media.

The letter goes on to say the group is disrespectful, disruptive, selfish and has no idea what it has taken from local residents.

"It is so painfully clear that you didn't spare a thought for the people whose lives you are invading.

"Even within Cranmer Square, you have set up as close to the school and houses as you could have...Your donation drop off zone and toilet block is directly opposite the primary school pick up."

The community is tired of the group treating the park like their own backyard - throwing parties and letting dogs bark at all hours, the letter stated.

The resident who penned it said they had lived in the area for a decade and feel sick to their stomach every time they come home and see the camp outside their house.

They said it was awful to see portaloos and cars in a square normally only used for ANZAC Day commemorations and as a primary school playing field.

The letter concludes: "we are begging you - give us our once-peaceful homes back."

Tents and signs at an anti-mandate protest in Christchurch.
Tents and signs at an anti-mandate protest in Christchurch. Photo credit: Getty Images

Pleas and fines so far ignored by protest organisers

All residents spoken to by RNZ and the one who wrote the letter, said they feel ignored by local authorities. Some said they feel the local authorities don't care about the resident's welfare.

Residents said letters and complaints sent to the police and council had led nowhere, with the council previously stating they will not send staff to the park without a police escort, but last time RNZ spoke to police on this issue, that option was ruled out.

Central Ward councillors, MPs and board members have sent letters to the Coalition about their actions too, also receiving no response.

To date, Christchurch City Council has fined the Freedom and Rights Coalition more that $24,000 for traffic management costs incurred by the council during their protests.

A council spokesperson said the latest $10,500 invoice must be paid by 20 March, but did not say how the council plans to enforce this.

The spokesperson confirmed the council had not yet received a response to the first fine, sent to the Coalition's Christchurch leader Derek Tait, in January.

A further invoice is currently being prepared for events in February.