Māori wardens: 'We received abuse from dawn till dusk'

Māori wardens haven't gone home yet from Parliament because they say there is still work to do.

But the whenua in front of Parliament in Wellington has been cleared after a 23-day occupation that saw a village erected, populated with people who oppose covid vaccines and government mandates.

This all toppled yesterday, in a violent clash between protesters and police. The chaotic scenes around Parliament were unlike anything seen in this country for decades. More than 70 people were arrested, 50 vehicles were towed, and six police officers required hospital treatment as did at least one protestor.

Te Ao Tapatahi talked to Māori Wardens Wellington district commander, Gabriel Tupou about the role the Maori wardens played while the protest was being dismantled.

He said police began an operation at 6am yesterday with the intention of bringing back order to the streets around Parliament as well as securing parliamentary grounds.

Youth safety corridor

The Maori wardens weren’t directly a part of the operation but Tupou said that he could hear the protest being dismantled from afar. “I’m sure that the people at home could see the images and live feed of that operation. I could hear the helicopter hovering above Pipitaa from 6am through to the evening.”

Tupou said the roles the wardens had was more satellite to that of the police at the main protest area, and they focused their efforts on the surrounding streets, the train and metro area as well as the car park of the Sky Stadium of the CBD, helping youth get to and from school and public transportation safely.

"We tried to maintain a high-visibility presence to maintain law and order and peace.”

During the operation, the wardens worked with the police, teachers, parents, volunteers and the Wellington City Council to create a safety corridor for students to travel during that volatile time.

Even with the Māori wardens located away from the most confrontational area of the operation, that didn’t shield them from the vitriol and abuse from the crowds dispersing through the surrounding streets from the operations ground zero. “We had some verbal abuse in the morning through to the evening.

“With the temperature of the operation starting to rise on Parliament grounds as well as Lambton Quay we decided to retreat from the surrounding streets for our own safety.”

There will be talks today with the Māori wardens about their role in dealing with the aftermath. “What that looks like is working with the police and working with mana whenua supporting them - we may be playing an important role in the aftermath of this kaupapa,” Tupou said.