PM urges iwi roadblock organisers to leave it to police

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 30 Nov 2021, 11:14AM

PM urges iwi roadblock organisers to leave it to police

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Tue, 30 Nov 2021, 11:14AM

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's visit to the Waikato has again been met with rowdy protesters criticising her Government's vaccine mandate. 

Ardern is in the Waikato today to see vaccine efforts first-hand and to meet with local businesses. 

However, she was greeted by noisy protesters who attempted to disrupt her visit. 

She told reporters she did not expect to see protesters at each regional trip she made. 

"Some days I do, some days I don't. But it's fair to say I roll with it no matter what." 

Responding to news that iwi members would be putting up a border of their own in the Bay of Islands and Northland areas, Ardern went on to say that they would leave those official borders to police. 

She called on iwi to work closely with police about the compliance and rules surrounding any moves to block people from coming up north when Auckland opened its border next month. 

On some parts of the country that will move into the red light setting on Friday, Ardern said it was because there were "very low" vaccination rates in those communities. 

Speaking about empty rooms in managed isolation and quarantine facilities, Ardern acknowledged that some facilities had to be made free for the likes of essential workers. 

On booster shots, Ardern said the Government continued to listen to the health experts. 

If they were told that there needed to be a shorter time period between a person's second jab and a booster shot, this would happen. 

"We are able to do that - but we always listen to the evidence and advice," she said. 

Currently, the gap between the second jab and a booster shot is six months in New Zealand. 

Ardern said the Government's "entire" Covid-19 response has been about protecting people's lives and their livelihoods. 

Protestors are gathering ahead of Jacinda Ardern's Waikato visit. Photo / Belinda Feek

On Māori vaccine data being shared, she said there were some people who did not want their data shared. 

But there were some health providers who have actively sought that information and received it. 

The Ministry of Health was trying to find a way still to help everyone involved - including going door-to-door to get families vaccinated among the Māori population. 

Ardern described today's visit as a chance to acknowledge some of the regional projects in the area - including a new theatre. 

She said she felt very proud to be a part of that today. 

A group of vaccine mandate protesters gathered one of Ardern's planned visits. 

The group were yelling various chants, saying the Government has "gone too far". 

The group of about 60 protesters drowned out Ardern's welcome at an outdoor sod-turning event. 

Some in the crowd look as young as 6. 

The Prime Minister attended the sod-turning event through a back entrance, avoiding protesters who yelled "liar, liar pants on fire" at her. 

Ardern acknowledged the "groupies" that had been following her and said their singing was good but their lyrics needed a bit of work. 

Her visit comes a day after confirmation the country will officially move into the new traffic light system on Friday and will effectively see more restrictions eased back, despite still being somewhat strict. 

Earlier today Health Minister Andrew Little said some regions moving into the red light setting had lower vaccination numbers and were places where they expected people to travel to in numbers during the summer. 

Restrictions therefore needed to be in place to stop overcrowding, he told The AM Show. 

Little said the vaccination numbers in Tairāwhiti needed to improve, especially for Māori. 

"There's a lot of concern in the community at the moment about Rhythm and Vines, anyway, because people are terrified of a whole horde of people - a lot of them from Auckland - coming down and crowding out a reasonably confined space." 

The health system was coping at the moment and would continue to cope, he said. 

Even moving to the orange traffic light, only vaccinated people would be able to attend the event. 

Little said the organisers knew the conditions and it was their call whether to cancel it. 

On ordinary members of the public starting to gather again, Little said if you were hosting a get-together and you trusted that the people were vaccinated, then that would be enough. 

"If these are people you know - family members, close friends - you trust them when they tell you they've been vaccinated, you accept that then that's going to be acceptable." 

Anyone else, you should be scanning their vaccine pass. 

If there was an outbreak and it was traced back to your party then questions would be asked and there could be an infringement if you've breached that rule. 

He said it "feels a bit weird", but it was about ensuring everybody was safe from infection. 

When asked if people could hug at a bar on Friday when Auckland moved to the red traffic light, Little said people should use their judgment and if it was someone you had nor seen for a long time then it might be worth still keeping your distance and doing a "virtual hug". 

"There are ways of showing affection to people who you like and haven't seen for a while that doesn't involve close contact. 

"This thing is still around and there will be some people who will not want to be hugged, they just want to take care of themselves too and they just don't know where people have been." 

Sharing a taxi with other people was okay if you were wearing masks and spaced. 

Little said they needed to know more about the new Covid strain, Omicron, and the level of severity of illness it caused. 

Response to new variant Omicron

New Zealand was not due to open its borders until mid-January to Kiwis in Australia, so they would just keep an eye on what's happening in the rest of the world for now.

The World Health Organisation's Dr Margaret Harris said they wanted to learn more about Omicron, where it was and to improve the testing and contact tracing, as there was not enough information to draw any conclusions about its severity yet.

Auckland will see more restrictions ease on Friday. Photo / Michael Craig

Some countries in Europe had stopped doing all the testing and tracing because for some reason there seemed to be a belief that this was somehow beaten, but they needed countries to keep doing it.

She told Three's AM Show it was exhausting and people had put in a lot of effort to try and prevent the spread and we had to keep on doing that.

Part of the research they are carrying out is whether or not people infected with this new strain had been vaccinated or not.

If we do not address the inequity of vaccines, this might be a dress rehearsal, she said.

As humanity as encroached on mother nature, it was clear the way we were interacting negatively with the rest of the biosphere was creating more and more opportunities for viruses to harm us, she said.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson told Newstalk ZB that community sport will go ahead under the orange level if there is vaccine certificates.

As to how that would happen, that was up to the organisers. But the guidance says "as is practical".

It would be up to the organisers to check the vaccine passports, but it was accepted there could be a lot of people there and some may choose not to check everyone.

Asked about people being put off due to the seven days isolation, Robertson said they would keep reviewing the isolation.

The red level was like alert level 2 and orange was like pre-Covid but with mask wearing, he said.

Green was even better and people would be able to live their lives "a lot more normally".