If Judith Collins was in charge, Destiny Church leader Brian Tamaki's anti-lockdown protest would not have been allowed to happen, the National leader claims.
More than 1000 people protested against COVID-19 restrictions on Saturday outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum, and despite breaching alert level 3 gathering rules, no one was arrested.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was a matter for the police, but Collins said on Monday she would not have allowed the march to happen under her watch.
"No. If I was the Police Commissioner, no. If I was the Police Minister, I would be asking Andy Coster as the Police Commissioner what was going on here," Collins told Magic Talk.
"Clearly you can't have the ministers interfering in police actions or inaction, but what is really clear is, yes people are getting frustrated, yes people are really over all of these lockdowns, particularly in Auckland, but what they're really over as well is the lack of consistency in policing."
The only gatherings allowed under alert level 3 are weddings and civil union ceremonies, funerals and tangihanga, with up to 10 people. People must remain in their household bubbles when not at work or school and masks remain mandatory outside of the home.
Auckland City District Commander Karyn Malthus said the police presence of about 20 officers at the protest was "one of observation and monitoring", rather than arresting people.
"To arrest people today was not the safest course to take with a crowd that size."
Collins said it wasn't fair of police to let the protesters off the hook when others have faced charges for breaking the rules. A police compliance update last week showed four people had been charged since alert level 3 was implemented.
"If you or I were off having a little protest by ourselves or bringing people with us, we would expect to be arrested," Collins said. "But unfortunately, what we're seeing is different rules for gangs, different rules for people who flout the law, and people have had a gutsful of this lack of consistency across the board."
Police are not ruling out laying charges at a later date. Officers were seen using surveillance tactics, such as photographing protesters and scanning car registrations.
"I don't consider it was special treatment," said Malthus. "We have a graduated response model which starts with engaging."
A petition calling for protest leader Brian Tamaki to be arrested has reached nearly 34,000 signatures.
"To date the New Zealand Police response over Tamaki's actions has been abysmal," the petition on change.org reads. "All involved were in breach of the current regulations covering groups and gatherings."
Tamaki said on Facebook Kiwis should be grateful.
"What price do you put on your personal Freedoms? Why would you hate us for that? As for the pathetic cry, you will cause a super-spread, is unreasonable panic," he wrote.
"You're vaccinated, not in the vicinity, and safe in your bubble, you then should be thanking us, who took the courageous risk, in the face of restrictions, to push back on oppressive laws from this Government."
Ardern said on Sunday the protest was a "slap in the face" for Aucklanders following the rules.
"Look, ultimately, the police response to the protest activity in Auckland on Saturday is a matter for them. It is operational - very important that I don't step into their decision making on the ground - but I have faith in the judgment of the police to manage all sorts of situations within COVID when it comes to compliance.
"I do, however, have a personal view on the protest itself. It was wrong. Obviously, it was illegal, but also it was morally wrong. What does it say to every Aucklander who has given up a huge amount over the past few weeks to do the right thing and keep other Aucklanders safe? It was a slap in the face to them."