Auckland mayoral candidate Leo Molloy is criticising Brian Tamaki's weekend motorway protest as a video emerges of him questioning the dangers of COVID-19 and promoting a previous anti-lockdown protest.
Molloy's comments come after around 1000 anti-Government protesters blocked a major Auckland motorway, causing traffic mayhem on Saturday.
Brian Tamaki's Freedom and Rights Coalition group organised the marches in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch against "the declining quality of life and the incompetence of this Government".
Protesters on Auckland's motorway were seen carrying a large banner that said: "Labour must go".
The protest moved from Pukeawa/Auckland Domain to Newmarket and back again, blocking the Southern Motorway between Khyber Pass and Gillies Avenue.
Police said they expect to press charges over the protest and are currently reviewing evidence.
Speaking on RNZ's First Up on Monday, Molloy said he was disappointed by the protest and didn't agree with it.
"It's disappointing I mean I don't agree with that sort of behaviour, I don't have any input or control or say in that area," he told RNZ.
Molloy went on to say he's very pro-vaccination and has put "significant distance" between himself and the Freedom and Rights Coalition.
When asked whether he was friends with Brian Tamaki, Molloy said that wasn't a "reasonable assessment of our relationship".
"I am friends with Hannah [Tamaki], I know Brian. I have been to their house once, to say I am friends with Brian would suggest or imply I have some sort of unique relationship with him which is not the case at all.
"But I am certainly friends with Hannah and I admire the work Destiny Church does for people who have fallen on hard times, vulnerable people and people who have fallen through the cracks," Molloy told RNZ.
Molloy's criticism comes after a video clip emerged on Twitter showing him promoting an anti-lockdown protest with the Tamakis.
The clip is from a livestream ahead of a Freedom and Rights Coalition-led anti-lockdown protest on October 2, 2021 at Auckland's Domain.
During the livestream Tamaki, who was joined by Molloy, said he was appearing alongside some others who were "part of the leadership" of the Freedom and Rights Coalition.
"I come from an interesting background," Molloy said in the livestream. "I'm seven years veterinarian, doctor of veterinary medicine so I have a little bit of an understanding of the science and using that for some sort of context - it gives me the right to have a qualified opinion," Molloy said.
He went on to claim the pandemic had been over-politicised and that COVID-19, which has killed more than six million people worldwide, was not "as fatal or as dangerous as is typically described by the media".
"You've got to bear in mind the advice the Government is getting is from people that I would loosely describe as lab rats, they spend their entire lives painting petri dishes, they've no consequences, they've never done anything significant, they've never had a peer-reviewed paper published but somehow they get an opportunity in front of a camera to become famous," Molloy said.
"Famous for what? Famous for having your hair dyed pink? But I can see through the Government bulls**t. I know I shouldn't use that word but I can see through it. It's fabrication and it's fluff, it's all orchestrated by a dozen or so spin doctors and the questions are so rhetorical."
Molloy's comments appear to be criticising microbiologist Dr Siouxsie Wiles who was one of the experts heavily involved in media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr Wiles is an associate professor at the University of Auckland. She has won numerous awards for her research and in 2019 was appointed a member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to microbiology and science communication.
Molloy told Newshub on Monday he was invited to take part in the livestream and chose to do so to "communicate my pro-vaccination stance".
"I met the Tamakis through hospitality, however, I strongly disagree with their views on vaccinations and civil disruption," he said.
"I was invited to take part in a video discussion with them early in the COVID crisis. I chose to communicate my pro-vaccination stance and share my knowledge of MRNA technology during that interview, at a time when no one else was reaching out to largely unvaccinated communities.
"I have never been aligned with the current movements involving Groundswell or Destiny Church. I have never participated in any of their events, and I condemn the recent actions of those entities."
In the full video, which has been seen by Newshub, Molloy criticises lockdown, suggests COVID-19 isn't as deadly as media have suggested and hits out at the Government's pandemic response. Molloy does however say he is vaccinated but supports everyone's individual choice.
Towards the end of the video, he also asks Brian Tamaki whether the protesters are allowed to congregate in level 3 before saying he is satisfied with Tamaki's explanation for why he believes they are.
"Technically you could argue that we are breaching but I am absolutely sure that 99 percent of policemen are good people and they didn't become policemen, become highly skilled, highly educated and highly trained to go and tell people not to stand too close together," Molloy said
The protests on October 2, 2021 drew widespread criticism from political leaders.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called it a "slap in the face for the Aucklanders who have given up their freedoms to keep people safe".