Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticises Extinction Rebellion protesters' behaviour

The Prime Minister has criticised the behaviour of climate change protesters who were arrested after causing chaos in Wellington.

About 30 Extinction Rebellion protesters were arrested on Monday after a day of demonstrating, including blocking entry into the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), stopping peak-hour traffic, and glueing themselves to a bank.

Part of a global movement of protesters causing disruption in cities around the world, the demonstrators called for more urgent climate change action, including for net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2025.

While Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made climate action a central focus for her Government - including by introducing the Zero Carbon Bill - and she supports the protesters' message, she's critical of their behaviour. 

"There is absolutely a place for people who are highlighting the issue of climate change. People are choosing to do it in their own ways," she told The AM Show.

"I draw the line when people dip into illegal behaviour though.

"We are a place where we embrace our freedom of expression, but I just encourage people not to move into the point of illegal or violent or activity that tips over into another space."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern criticises Extinction Rebellion protesters' behaviour
Photo credit: The AM Show.

She said MBIE played a big part in the Government's agenda in tackling climate change - such as working to help end future offshore oil and gas exploration in April last year - so blocking their work didn't achieve anything.

"Blocking MBIE who are doing practical work I don't think takes us any further."

However, protester Melanie Vautier had a different view on Monday.

"We want a future where all life thrives… yet MBIE is encouraging the burning of the dirty fuels that are pushing us towards mass extinction," she said.

While legislation has been passed restricting the allocation of petroleum exploration permits in onshore Taranaki, permits are still allowed in some areas. More than 2000 square kilometres of Taranaki land has been put up for offer, with a submission process currently underway.

"Either we make history, or we're history… that means we must draw the line on fossil fuels before it's too late," Vautier said before the Wellington protest.

While Ardern is happy to engage with Extinction Rebellion, she thinks their message will have a greater impact in other countries.

"Climate change, ultimately, requires all of us to do our bit. New Zealand, we are 0.17 percent of global emissions, doesn't mean we shouldn't be doing our bit, we absolutely should and we should be leading," she said.

"These are global movements and so some of those messages will be more powerful in other places than they will be in others."

Extinction Rebellion protesters have continued demonstrations around the world on Tuesday, including bringing London, Amsterdam and Sydney to a standstill.