Former National MP Matt King says protesters will leave if Jacinda Ardern gives date for when COVID-19 vaccine mandates will end

A former National MP says the protesters causing chaos in Wellington will leave if the Prime Minister announces a date for when COVID-19 vaccine mandates will end. 

However Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in AM refused to be drawn on setting a date. 

The anti-mandate protesters have been camped out on Parliament's lawn for a week now despite efforts from Speaker of the House Trevor Mallard and police to remove them. 

Speaking with AM on Monday, King said the protesters just want certainty about when mandates will end. 

"I believe we can get most if not all of them off if they are given a rock-solid guarantee that they will remove the mandates on a certain date. I reckon people will leave, there might be a handful left behind but I think they will go," King said. 

Ardern recently revealed COVID-19 mandates will be removed when they are no longer needed but she didn't give a date. 

King also attempted to provide some legitimacy for the crowd who have been criticised in recent days for verbally abusing school children, assaulting police officers, yelling abuse at journalists and holding signs calling for the deaths of MPs. 

The former National MP said the crowds aren't violent and he would feel safe walking his grandmother through the group. 

"I've been telling everyone this is not going to be solved by violence and I can tell you they are not violent, they are being passive as. I mean there are barriers there that they could step over and challenge the police and no one is stepping over the barriers. They are standing behind them and singing and dancing."

King said the protesters were "average Kiwis" who were unhappy about the mandates. 

"There are some average Kiwis that watched what happened the other day with the arrests and they jumped in their vehicles and jumped in their planes and came here. 

"I'm telling you there's some ex-police, some ex-defence force personnel that have lost their jobs because of the mandates. There are people that have never been in trouble with the police but didn't like what they saw so if the police come in there being heavy-handed and arresting people it's going to be chaotic."

When asked whether chaotic meant violent, King said no. 

But despite his assurances, the protesters were peaceful, Newshub reporter Jenna Lynch said some were "yelling at the cops already" this morning. 

Lynch said the protesters have been "terrorising Wellingtonians" for a week. 

"I think a lot of [Parliament] staff have been expressing concern that it feels like this is going nowhere. No one knows when it's going to end and it feels like there hasn't been any movement for a week now. 

"Some of these protesters have been here, basically terrorising Wellingtonians, abusing school kids, making a mess of parliament's lawn, clogging up traffic and just making a nuisance of themselves for a week now."

It comes after tensions reached a boiling point last week with police arresting more than 100 protesters. Two officers were also assaulted and a 17-year-old girl was egged by aggressive members of the group. 

Speaking on AM on Monday Ardern said they aren't trying to peacefully protest. 

"I'm going to push back on the sense here that this is a group that we're seeing wanting to engage in political dialogue. We've seen some horrific behaviour down there and I'm not going to legitimise it," she said. 

She said it's too soon to give a date for when vaccine mandates might end. 

"As our cases are increasing, it's very difficult for us to put that date on it. But we do anticipate being able to move away from that in the future. When we can, we will. But when we're on the up side of a curve in an Omicron outbreak, now's not the time to do that."

The vaccine is safe and effective against the COVID-19 virus. Certain industries were mandated due to their exposure to vulnerable members of the public who are more likely to die or be hospitalised with the virus. The industries include health and disability workers, border workers, police and corrections and educators. 

A study in 2021 by The World Health Organization suggested the COVID-19 vaccine had saved nearly half a million lives in less than a year. 

It comes after New Zealand recorded a record 810 new cases on Sunday.