Protesters add sizzle to National Party Xmas barbecue

Police try and control protesters at the National Party's Christmas function. Photo / Greg Bowker
Police try and control protesters at the National Party's Christmas function. Photo / Greg Bowker
Prime Minister John Key says a group of angry protesters did not ruin the National Party's Christmas function as they banged on the windows amid a heavy police presence last night.

About 30 members of the Auckland Action Against Poverty (AAAP) group occupied the second-storey balcony of the Auckland Grammar Old Boys' pavilion, peering in at Mr Key and other party-goers.

Another group of about 30 formed a picket line at the entry gate on Mountain Rd in Epsom.

Mr Key told Newstalk ZB this morning that the protesters had not ruined the party.

"They're the same people protesting about deep sea oil drilling, they're the same people protesting about the convention centre, they're the same people that protested about changes to the labour laws for the Hobbit, they're the same people that protested about the 90 day probationary period.

"So yeah, they just protest because that's all they've got to do all day."

About 15 police officers were on hand to control the protesters.

The venue overlooks Auckland Grammar's playing fields, with mostly floor-to-ceiling glass doors that open out to the balcony.

Pushing and shoving broke out as officers tried to move the balcony group after they started banging on the walls and windows. They confiscated the group's loud speakers, but did not remove the protesters.

AAAP spokeswoman Sarah Thompson said the group was protesting over the Government's welfare reforms and job-creation policies.

"We wanted to come here to send a message to John Key and his mates that these cuts are not okay," she said.

"We won't lie down and take it."

Mr Key arrived at the function about 6.45pm and was joined by MPs including Judith Collins and Paula Bennett.

Former MP and Mana Party member Sue Bradford said the group was carrying on in the spirit of Nelson Mandela and standing up for those most vulnerable in society.

No arrests were made, and protesters left voluntarily about 7.30pm.

A spokeswoman for Mr Key said: "It was a National Party Northern Region Christmas function attended by around 300 people.The protesters didn't in any way disrupt the event."

- Ben Irwin

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