Parliament grounds reopened after months of repair

Crowds attend the reopening of Parliament grounds. Photo: RNZ
Crowds attend the reopening of Parliament grounds. Photo: RNZ
Parliament's grounds have reopened to the public, following three months of repairs after the property was damaged when anti-mandate protesters rioted.

The grounds were badly damaged during the anti-mandate occupation and riots in February and March.

While the grounds have been open as a thoroughfare for a few weeks, a ceremony on Thursday officially marked the official reopening.

The ceremony was called Mōuri Whenua, Mōuri Tangata, Mōuri Ora, meaning a "ceremony to restore the land, people, and life of Parliament".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the accessibility the public have always had to the grounds.

"Let us reaffirm today what enables us to make these grounds such an open place, and those are the values for New Zealanders that we hold dear. Where we debate, where we have dialogue, where we disagree, but we do it with respect, with empathy, with kindness."

While Ardern did not explicitly acknowledge the occupation, she said protesters will remain welcome.

"This is equally your space as well, and I think some have rejoined these grounds," she said, observing a small climate protest in attendance.

Speaker Trevor Mallard addresses the crowd during the official opening of Parliament grounds.
Speaker Trevor Mallard addresses the crowd during the official opening of Parliament grounds.
Te Ātiawa Taranaki Whānui chair Kara Puketapu-Dentice told the crowd to remain committed to moving from disconnection to reconnection.

"Today, we have restored the honour and integrity of our ancestral whenua here. Today we have laid down our expectation that peace will reside over this place," he said.

After weeks of rain, the sun came out for the re-opening, which took on a party atmosphere. MP from across the house served a sausage sizzle, while the queues for ice cream stretched across the grounds.

"These are probably the first Parliamentary grounds that have ever hosted a Mr Whippy," Ardern said.

Children from schools in the area, many who were forced to learn from home during the protests, were invited to the ceremony.

"It feels like we're connecting with the community," said one Thorndon School student.

"We were going to come anyway. But the Mr Whippy certainly helps," said another.

Speaker Trevor Mallard indicated more work could be done to the grounds to give them more of a New Zealand identity.

"One of the real benefits of working with mana whenua on this has been the absolute realisation on the part of many parliamentarians that our Parliament is not special enough," he said.

Mallard said the buildings could have been anywhere in the Commonwealth.

"What I'm hoping is by the time of the next Matariki, we will have an approach and a grounds that says 'this is New Zealand'."

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