A scheme to block roads across New Zealand orchestrated by an anti-lockdown protest group has begun this morning with around 200 people in cars and bikes setting off on Auckland’s wet highways.
The Freedoms & Rights Coalition protest group had proposed a “Great Gridlock” of slow moving vehicles to block traffic across several New Zealand cities today.
The Herald will be providing updates on where the protest may be disrupting traffic in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
In Auckland, the motorcade of vehicles started at Manukau Central at 11am and split in two to do a southern-northwest-southwest highway loop along SH1 and SH20 to the city centre.
One convoy is going clockwise and the other anti-clockwise.
The group claim they will travel at 50kmh on Auckland highways.
They estimate the Auckland highway loop at this speed will take two hours.
People were gathering in the car park of at the Destiny Church base in Manakau as of 10am today.
Cars have been arriving at Druces Road, Wiri, and a voice was heard over loud speaker from inside the church.
It is estimated a few hundred people gathered there. The motorcade of vehicles set off from Destiny Church at around 11am.
“Grid lock is well and truly on now, road outside Destiny is backed up like crazy and a never-ending stream of cars are joining from the carpark,” one person at the scene said.
In Wellington, around 50 protesters have been gathering at the velodrome in Hataitai Park.
The Wellington motorcade plans to do loops along the following streets: Custom house Quay, Aotea quay, Wakefield St, Vivian St, Kent Terrace.
As of 11am, Wellington’s protest had left Hataitai Courts and is making its way around the Basin Reserve.
A small group of protesters at the Basin Reserve in Wellington are being met with toots and shouting from passing vehicles.
Traffic is slightly congested but is still moving both from Kent Terrace and the Mt Vic Tunnel.
NZ Police said yesterday they are aware of planned protest activity across the country on Saturday, and will monitor its activity.
“Police officers will maintain a presence and will respond to events as appropriate at the time,” a police spokesperson said.
“As with previous large gatherings, Police may follow up on any identified offences or breaches at a later time.”
On their website, the group has a fitting typo for the wet weather when describing their aim today.
“The gridlock will be a slop [sic] moving loop for you to join in on from your respective suburb. Cars, Motorbikes, Trucks, Tractors…all are welcome.
“The reason this is not a standstill is that we still want to be responsible in terms of health and safety and be able to make way for any emergency services, or allow people to use the motorways and streets/exits if need be.”
The protest group is associated with Destiny Church, whose leader Brian Tamaki has been charged by police with breaching the Health Act for organising a series of protests at Auckland Domain.
The latest, on October 30 two weeks ago, attracted over 5000 people. But Tamaki wasn’t in attendance due to his bail conditions.
Auckland Transport (AT) confirmed police will be responsible for managing traffic and crowds on the day.
AT said they will provide real-time messaging on traffic volumes, delays or disruptions as needed, via their regular channels such as the AT app, and their Twitter and Facebook pages.
Waka Kotahi/NZTA manage the motorway system and for information about State Highway traffic the public is urged to use Waka Kotahi’s journey planner tool: journeys.nzta.govt.nz/traffic
Christchurch City Council transport operations manager Steffan Thomas said they would also be coordinating any response to today’s protest with police.
“We are aware of the planned protests and will be liaising closely with the Police to ensure traffic can move around the city safely,” Thomas said.
Waka Kotahi/NZTA are posting real time traffic updates on their Twitter accounts for the various regions.
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