Council weighing options to remove protesters

A showdown looms in the Octagon as the Dunedin City Council calls on protesters to leave and weighs its options for forcibly removing them.

Mayor of Dunedin Aaron Hawkins said vaccine pass requirements had been lifted at Dunedin City Council facilities and it was time for protesters to leave the Octagon.

Council staff spoke to protest organisers yesterday and asked them to leave, but the protesters declined.

Staff were in discussions with police and were considering what legal options were best for removing the protesters, Mr Hawkins said.

Protest organiser Nora Bishop would not speak when approached for comment yesterday, but in an emailed statement said the protesters had not been visited by "the mayor or any other official in regard to our demands".

She said most people they had spoken to during the occupation were encouraging, but some passers-by had been abusive and caused assaults or property damage.

The protesters had several demands, including ending all Covid-19 vaccine mandates, the traffic light system, vaccine passports and all pandemic-related laws that "erode the people’s sovereign rights and freedoms".

They also wanted people who had lost their jobs due to vaccine mandates to be reinstated and compensated, along with an independent investigation into any public service misconduct during the pandemic, she said.

The Octagon occupation started on February 11 in solidarity with the Convoy 2022 protest in parliament grounds.

The Octagon occupation, comprising 13 dome tents, a central gazebo housing an open fire, toilet...
The Octagon occupation, comprising 13 dome tents, a central gazebo housing an open fire, toilet and piano, continues. PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
When the Otago Daily Times visited the protest site yesterday a group of five, made up of occupiers and supporters, were at the site.

A child yelled expletives and tried to push an Otago Daily Times reporter before being redirected.

When asked whether it was appropriate to have a child at the protest, Ms Bishop said she had no-one else to look after him.

She declined to speak further, instead answering questions by email.

Nova owner Mark Fraser said something needed to be done about the occupation.

A "fair few" altercations had occurred and the behaviour of protesters was frustrating.

Things were hard enough as a business owner as it was, he said.

Craft Bar and Kitchen owner John McDonald agreed the protesters had outstayed their welcome and it was time for the city centre to be available to all.