Christopher Luxon says Trevor Mallard's sprinkler, music tactics were 'not helpful', protest should be left to police

National Party leader Christopher Luxon says Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard needs to leave dealing with the protesters on Parliament's grounds to police, who he says he continues to have confidence in to handle the situation.

Mallard over the weekend deployed sprinklers and music speakers in an attempt to move along the hundreds of anti-vaccine mandate protesters camping on Parliament's front lawn and blocking surrounding streets. 

The demonstrators were undeterred by Mallard's tactics, digging trenches to divert the water and dancing to the music the Speaker played, including the notoriously annoying 'Baby Shark' tune. They've also ignored pleas from police to leave after they were trespassed last week.

Luxon, who was in Christchurch on Monday, told reporters that he didn't think Mallard's actions were "helpful at all". He took a similar stance to the Prime Minister in refusing to give his view on how police should deal to the crowd. 

"I think this is an issue that needs to be left to the police to manage," the National Party leader said. "It is an operational issue for them.

"They are the experts that know how best to manage the situation and I just don't think those actions have been helpful at all."

He said he had confidence in the police to sort the situation out, but acknowledged it was "very difficult". 

"We trust the police, we back them to do their job and to work out what is the appropriate set of actions from here."

Christopher Luxon.
Christopher Luxon. Photo credit: Newshub.

Superintendent Corrie Parnell, the Wellington District Commander, has said one of the issues facing police is that there are a number of different groups of protesters, each with their own leaders and causes. 

That makes negotiation complex and is something Luxon sympathises with. 

"I can tell you what is happening down there, it is a very wide set of interests that are down there. It ranges from anti-authority to anti-vaccination to anti-mandates. It is also a wide variety of groups that ranges from white supremacists through to Maori separatists and everyone in between. Most importantly, it is a group that has arrived and been incredibly abusive and anti-social.

"It is pretty tough when you see school children getting harassed because they are wearing a mask to school in that area, it is pretty tough when you can't get an emergency service down a street because it is completely blocked, or people can't catch a bus to get to and fro from work. 

"Those are things that I don't think have set them off well and it is very difficult to engage when you don't have leaders and you have a diverse group like that."

Among those protesting over the weekend was former National MP Matt King, who has voiced opposition to vaccine mandates for workforces like the police. 

He told AM on Monday that he believes most protesters would leave if the Prime Minister announced an end date to mandates. Ardern wouldn't do that, however, saying New Zealand is seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases. 

Luxon was asked what he thought of King heading along to the event. 

"Matt King is no longer a National Party MP," he said. "We're a party that's very much around vaccination and boosters.

"The abusive, anti-social nature of [the protests], you know, it makes it very difficult for any of us as parliamentarians to engage with them."

Luxon has previously called on the Prime Minister to reveal what the criteria would be to trigger an end to mandates.

"You've got to have that conversation first before you work out any time plan around it, you've got to be really clear about what's driving the removal of mandates and what would be the settings on the triggers for that."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday wouldn't be drawn on how she thinks the protesters should be handled, telling AM that it's not up to her. 

"When it comes to the management of the protest and the Speaker or indeed the decisions by the police, ultimately I need to let them do their jobs. Those are their jurisdictions," Ardern said.

"But I would just note it has been a protest with constant noise, constant music and speaking and quite threatening behaviour and that is the context of the environment we are all in down here."

Jacinda Ardern.
Jacinda Ardern. Photo credit: Newshub.

Protesters travelled from across New Zealand to Parliament's front lawn last Tuesday as part of a series of convoys rallying against COVID-19 restrictions, including vaccination mandates on certain workforces.

In the six days since, hundreds of additional protesters have also descended onto Parliament's grounds, setting up tents and gazebos and blocking central city streets with their vehicles. Police say there is a core group of 400 to 500 protesters, but at the demonstrations' peak, there were about 3000 people at the site.

Police arrested more than 120 protesters last week after they were trespassed from the grounds. Many of those at Parliament have been hurling abuse at staff, members of the public, journalists and nearby businesses, while also disrupting locals' ability to move around freely.

While some protesters claim they aren't against vaccines and only oppose mandates, many signs promote conspiracy theories about the jabs.