Anti-mandate protests reverberate

Small but loud protests were staged around Otago and Southland yesterday, as part of a national day of rallies decrying mandatory Covid-19 vaccinations.

The highest profile gathering drew a few thousand to Parliament, while the largest southern gathering attracted about 150 people to a march through Invercargill.

About 60 people staged a protest in Balclutha and 40 people took part in an event in the Octagon in Dunedin.

Protesters gather in front of the steps of Parliament in Wellington yesterday as police watch...
Protesters gather in front of the steps of Parliament in Wellington yesterday as police watch.PHOTO: RNZ
The Government has mandated vaccination for health, education and border workers and some Corrections staff, and for workers at businesses where customers need to show Covid-19 vaccination certificates, such as hospitality and close-contact businesses.

The decision has triggered resistance from some groups, but the Ministry of Health has backed the Pfizer vaccine as a vital measure for reducing infection and transmission of the Covid-19 virus.

The Invercargill march began at the city’s war memorial, and headed to Labour list MP Liz Craig’s office.

Riverton woman Irirangi Luke could not control her tears.

‘‘We are here today because we value our freedom. We do not consent to this crap that they are trying to put us through,’’ she said.

‘‘It is our right — that we are born with — to say ‘no, we don’t agree’.’’

Anti-vaccine mandate protest organiser Michael Magiera speaks at a small gathering of protesters...
Anti-vaccine mandate protest organiser Michael Magiera speaks at a small gathering of protesters in Balclutha. Protesters drive vehicles down Balclutha’s main street. PHOTOS: GREGOR RICHARDSON
Protesters could not be labelled ‘‘anti-vaxxers’’ as it was not about that, she said.

‘‘We are not anti-vaxxers. We are here because we believe in choice. We believe in our rights of freedom.’’

Businessman Jason Turnbull said he was concerned about what the Government was doing with the country’s law.

‘‘They are changing all sorts of laws — to do with entering homes, to do with land, to do with waters, to do with our rights ... these things will affect our children and grandchildren and that is not right.’’

In Balclutha, a group of about 60 protesters in tractors, utes and on foot converged outside the town’s Farmlands Co-operative store in Baxter St.

Leader Michael Magiera, an Owaka Valley dairy farmer, said he wanted New Zealanders to ‘‘get out of their comfort zone’’, and express their opinions concerning current and incoming mandatory vaccination rules.

As a shareholder in Farmlands, he could not condone the co-operative mandating vaccination for staff, Mr Magiera said.

‘‘We don’t disagree with vaccination in general, nor do we want to stop others getting the Covid-19 vaccine.

‘‘What we do disagree with is failing to respect people’s personal choice whether or not to get vaccinated, and workplaces — like Farmlands — coercing staff to do so on pain of losing their job.’’

A Farmlands spokesman said on Monday the firm was seeking feedback from staff on proposed mandated vaccination, but had not yet made a decision.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said that although he understood some people had concerns about vaccination in general, the growing spread of the Covid-19 Delta variant meant that now was ‘‘time to do the right thing’’.

‘‘There are times when society’s greater need outweighs personal choice, and we have a critical responsibility as a nation moving forward to protect the vulnerable, including our under-12s, from what has proven to be a brutal pandemic elsewhere in the world.’’

Multiple specialists have verified and backed the safety of the Pfizer vaccine.

Yesterday the Southern District Health Board passed the 500,000 mark for the number of Covid-19 vaccinations in Otago and Southland.

Of those injections, 91.1% were first doses and 80.2% of people were fully vaccinated with two doses.


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