Jenna Lynch: Top cop's towing ultimatum with no tow trucks is laughable

OPINION: Finally, more than a week into an ugly occupation of Parliament, Police Commissioner Andrew Coster has realised he needs to step in and step up.

For eight days protesters have hurled abuse at anyone wearing a mask, written death threats on Parliament's forecourt, clogged up the streets of central Wellington. And save the brief arrest-fest last Thursday it appears, to an increasingly frustrated Wellington public, that police can't or won't do a lot about it.

This is not a criticism of the frontline officers who are day-in-day-out patrolling Parliament ensuring safety. They are doing a great job, facing hours of being yelled at, spat at and even assaulted. They've weathered everything from horrid humidity to an ex-tropical cyclone.

But it was only on Tuesday that the top brass recognised the depth of public frustration, activating the major operations centre - taking over the protest, managing it at a national policing level.

That means finally rolling out the big boss to say the protest is "no longer tenable".

Cmmr Coster laid down an ultimatum: "The roads need to be cleared now or we will be towing vehicles. Vehicles that are towed will be seized and not immediately released to those who have failed to move them. Those who obstruct police efforts to clear the roads can expect to be arrested and charged," he said.

The problem is at this stage his ultimatum is a bit of a joke.

The Commissioner said with a straight face he will tow the vehicles, confiscate them and arrest anyone that gets in the police's way.  He told the protesters their time is up, without having the tow trucks to actually follow through.

He couldn't give any sort of deadline for the protesters to get a move on - possibly because in the very next breath he issued a public plea for towing companies to come forward and help the cops.

"We have, from the outset of this, had very great reluctance from tow operators to support us in clearing this situation," he said.

"Part of what we'd like to do today is to appeal to those who are tow operators to come forward and help us sort this out."

Cmmr Coster then admitted that he's called on the Defence Force for help with towing the cars but they never got back to him.

A week in and the police haven't been able to source a tow truck to clear the streets.

So what we have now is the Police Commissioner of New Zealand - our most senior cop - publicly begging for someone to help him tow a car.

It'd be funny if the public wasn't relying on him to put an end to this mess.

Jenna Lynch is Newshub's Political Editor.