Patrick Gower says 'absolutely no need' for dialogue with protesters at Parliament

  • 22/02/2022

There's "absolutely no need for dialogue" with protesters occupying Parliament's grounds, Newshub's Patrick Gower believes.

There have been calls - including from former Prime Minister Jim Bolger - for political leaders to head down to the demonstration that has engulfed the front lawn of Parliament and blocked surrounding streets and speak to protesters about their demands and concerns.

MPs have so far been unwilling to enter dialogue with the occupiers, saying their protest is illegal and causing significant disruption to nearby businesses. There have been reports of protesters abusing members of the public, while some have also made death threats towards politicians and journalists.

Speaker Trevor Mallard released a statement on behalf of all parties in Parliament last week clarifying there would be no dialogue with protesters "until the protest returns to one within the law". 

Gower, Newshub's National Correspondent, told AM on Tuesday that his view was that there was "absolutely no need for dialogue". 

"All of this talk about having a dialogue with the people on the front lawn of Parliament. I saw a sign there yesterday comparing the Prime Minister to the person who committed March 15," Gower said.

"We don't need dialogue with these people, in my view. No need for dialogue. Cops should have been in there ages ago. If there's some sort of review coming up where the police review their actions, forget about it. It'll be a whitewash. Let's just get on and get these guys out of there."

One of the challenges for police has been the lack of clear leadership among the protesters. A number of different groups are present at the occupation with various expectations of the Government.

Many there oppose vaccine mandates. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday that some mandates would be wound down after Omicron peaks, though she was clear that wasn't in response to pressure from the protesters.

Gower told AM that what the Prime Minister shared was "common sense". 

"We're not going to need the mandate after Omicron passes through," he said. 

"Look, I am pro-vax. Everybody in New Zealand knows that. I hosted the vaxathon for goodness sake, but at the same time, I'm looking forward to the end of the mandates. I can't wait for the end of the mandates because the end of the mandates is going to mean we can all come together again. 

"It's going to mean everybody can get back to working and going to cafes and doing all the stuff that we like to do and having our cuzzies over for barbies and all of that sort of thing. But at the moment, we still need them just for a little while longer, and they did a hell of a great job"

Protesters first arrived at the site two weeks ago and have since set up camps, gazebos, food trucks, barbers, and washing areas. There's thought to be a core group of about 800 people at the site, with more coming in to protest over the weekends. 

Police have come under fire for not dispersing the crowd earlier, but claim any enforcement action would have led to an escalation in tensions and caused more harm than good.

On both Monday and Tuesday morning, police tried to install concrete bollards to reduce the area of the protest and stop disruption to surrounding roads. 

Human waste was allegedly thrown on officers on Monday while three officers were taken to hospital on Tuesday after being sprayed with a "stinging substance". 

"Other officers were fortunate to escape injury after a person deliberately drove the wrong way down Molesworth Street and stopped just short of colliding with them," police said.

"Two people have been arrested for obstructing police and one person has been arrested for driving in a dangerous manner."

Gower told AM it was "beyond ugly". 

"It is dangerous and disgusting, and to see that white car being driven at police officers who actually had their backs turned. If you watch that vision closely, they had their backs turned to that vehicle. There could have been serious injury done there."