National MP Maureen Pugh allegedly assaulted in Tākaka by anti-fast-track protester

National MP for West Coast-Tasman, Maureen Pugh, was allegedly assaulted in Tākaka on Tuesday.
National MP for West Coast-Tasman, Maureen Pugh, was allegedly assaulted in Tākaka on Tuesday. Photo credit: Newshub.

West Coast-Tasman MP Maureen Pugh has allegedly been assaulted by a protester opposing the Government's Fast Track legislation.

Pugh was in Tākaka on Tuesday to meet with the local Community Board at their invitation. They wanted to connect with her similarly to what they had under the previous MP - Labour's Damien O'Connor.

"We had invited Maureen to come to the community board. The main reason was for a cup of tea and to create a relationship," said Tākaka Community Board deputy chair Grant Knowles.

He told Newshub during the hui, more than 100 "angry" protesters had gathered with placards outside in opposition to the Government's Fast Track Approvals Bill.

Their protest was aimed at Pugh because they weren't happy she'd invited an Australian company to take part in the fast-track process to set up a gold mine in Sam's Creek, which flows into the Tākaka River, said Knowles.

"It was supposed to be a peaceful protest. Unfortunately one individual didn't listen", Knowles told Newshub.

Siren Gold applied in April to set up giant mining operations in Sam's Creek in Cobb Valley, and nearby Rīwhitana/Reefton to be considered under the Government's Fast Track Approvals Bill.

"The Sams Creek project with its large endowment of gold has the potential to add significant revenue and employment opportunities for the Country," said company CEO Victor Rajasooriar in an announcement on the Australian Stock Exchange in April.

"We look forward to working with the government and local stakeholders to advance both projects to fruition."

Knowles told Newshub many locals in Mohua/Golden Bay are furious at the idea of a new foreign-owned gold mine "poisoning" their pristine waters, including the aquifer that feeds the famous Waikoropupū Springs.

"We've got 5000 people living in Golden Bay. I don't think one of them is not concerned," he said.

The community board raised the gold mine issue with Pugh in the final 10 minutes of the meeting, Knowles said, because they "want her support to make sure the water stays pure".

Afterwards, she was confronted by "about 120 protesters" outside the council building, Knowles said.

"A lot of angry yelling at Maureen Pugh."

One man in particular had approached Pugh aggressively with his cardboard sign.

"He went over the line," said Knowles, but clarified he did not hit Pugh.

Following that, a "large mob" surrounded Pugh's car as she tried to leave, with the "intimidating" man still forcing his placard at her.

Police confirmed to Newshub they received a report of an assault on Commercial St in Tākaka just after 3pm Tuesday.

No injuries were reported, the police spokesperson said, while the investigation into the alleged assault is ongoing.

Knowles said if Pugh had stopped and listened, it could have diffused the situation, but acknowledged it's hard to engage when people are yelling and screaming at you.

He suggested they "sing some waiata" to get their kōrero across better.

A National Party spokesperson told Newshub that Pugh was "subjected to intimidating behaviour from several protestors" on Tuesday.

"National respects the rights of people to protest and share their views. However, this should always be done lawfully and respectfully," they said.