Diverse views expressed by protesters camped out in Octagon

Protesters continue their stand in the Octagon in Dunedin yesterday morning. PHOTO: GREGOR...
Protesters continue their stand in the Octagon in Dunedin yesterday morning. PHOTO: GREGOR RICHARDSON
A small number of anti-mandate protesters set up shop in the Octagon over the weekend in solidarity with the Wellington protests and say they are refusing to leave until vaccine mandates are lifted.

The occupation began on Saturday night and was attended by about 10 protesters, with a smaller number staying overnight.

Three camping tents and a marquee remained yesterday, with a handful of campers braving the rain in the afternoon.

Daniel Diack said he was at the protest because he wanted vaccine mandates lifted.

He believed freedom of choice was at stake, in particular the right to refuse medical treatment, as per section 10 of the Bill of Rights Act.

He was not staying overnight but visited when he could in order to support the occupation.

He acknowledged there were diverse views in the protest movement, including ‘‘the crazy Right’’ and those who were down the ‘‘rabbit hole’’.

The Government has promoted vaccination and wearing of masks as key to limiting the impact of Covid-19.

It has urged people who are double-vaccinated to get booster shots, if they are eligible, as that is considered the best defence against the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Mr Diack distanced himself from some of the perspectives shared by other protesters, which he described as ‘‘too much’’.

However, despite their differences they were all united by their opposition to vaccine mandates, he said.

Other protesters did not want to give their names and expressed a range of perspectives, including concerns about children’s wellbeing and the number of boosters that would be required.

Many also expressed concerns about discrimination, ranging from a belief that talking to people while wearing a mask could be discriminatory, to concerns about paying rates while not being able to access council facilities.

A Dunedin City Council spokeswoman said it was aware protest action had been signalled.

If any problems arose they would be a matter for police, she said.

A police spokesman said they attended the protest and found no issues.

Wanaka protests

A police spokeswoman said they had received reports of disorderly conduct by anti-mandate protesters at 12.30pm near Ardmore St in Wanaka on Saturday.

Thirty to 40 protesters were on the road and preventing people from going about their business.

Staff had been deployed to the area, she said.

A spokeswoman from Trout Bar and Grill said the protests, which were on their fourth day, were starting to wear their welcome ‘‘really, really thin’’.

She was concerned about potential damage to the business’s bottom line if the protests continued.