Restore Passenger Rail protesters block busy Wellington road

Climate activists shut down a key road in Wellington this morning as the group vows to ramp up its disruption to motorists.

Restore Passenger Rail was back protesting on Wellington roads after a four-month hiatus, blocking northbound traffic on the State Highway 1 intersection with Wellington Road in Kilbirnie on Tuesday morning.

Police responded to the protest and just before 9am all protesters were removed. Footage from the scene shows one protester being escorted by police with her hand covered in concrete.

"It's for you too. I do this with love," protester Rosemary Penwarden told AM.

"So many people are terrified of the climate crisis but we are not doing enough."

There were a lot of angry people in Wellington trying to get to work and the hospital. AM reporter James Fleury said a woman was trying to visit her elderly mother while one motorbike drove up the sidewalk to try to get through. Some cars have driven up on the curb in an attempt to get past.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport said commuters heading from Miramar and Kilbirnie into Wellington city can expect delays on Tuesday morning. Drivers are asked to avoid the area and consider  another route.

Restore Passenger Rail protesters block the intersection of State Highway 1 and Hamilton Road.
Restore Passenger Rail protesters block the intersection of State Highway 1 and Hamilton Road. Photo credit: AM

The protesters are demanding climate action, specifically restoring a nationwide passenger rail service and free urban public transport. 

"We're back because this government is still not taking the climate crisis seriously. Both major parties are vying for who can spend more on new four-lane highways. This is an act of destruction against my generation, and all those who will come after me," spokesperson Jonty Coulson said.

It comes after the Government announced this month its $45 billion Auckland Harbour crossing plan, which includes two three-lane tunnels (one in each direction) built for vehicles between the central Auckland motorway junction and Akoranga on the North Shore. Meanwhile, the National Party has proposed a $24 billion transport package that promises to deliver 13 new roads of "national significance", many of which include four-lane roads.

There were plans for the group to block traffic on Monday, however, that was called off due to safety concerns.

Frustrations with the protest group grew as their demonstrations occurred every week over six weeks earlier this year. Restore Passenger Rail has blocked various locations such as the Terrace Tunnel, Transmission Gully and SH1. Multiple protesters have been arrested.

Wellington Mayor Tory Whanau told AM in May the protest group has lost the support of progressive politicians like herself, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Transport Minister Michael Wood, which shows they need to question their tactics.