Covid 19 anti vaccine mandate Parliament protest end: Streets reopen, businesses still hurting one week on

Streets around Parliament have reopened one week on from when the protest there came to a violent end, but businesses in the area are still doing it tough.

Police are guarding all entries to Parliament and a few patches of green have returned to parts of the lawn. Elsewhere, the ground is dirty brown without a blade of grass in sight.

Property from the protest, including camping equipment, has been destroyed after it was found to be contaminated with human waste, dirt and hay. It was classified as a health nuisance under Section 29 of the Health Act 1956.

Rubbish has also been removed from the streets, roads swept and power-washed, sumps cleared, and pedestrian crossing buttons and rails disinfected.

“There’s been a huge effort to clean, fix, maintain, and restore the area near the protest site by Wellington City Council staff and our contractors in challenging conditions,” council spokeswoman Victoria Barton-Chapple said.

On Lambton Quay, screws embedded into the road’s surface to secure tents have been taken out and all gaps from missing pavers have been replaced with asphalt.

The Cenotaph is yet to be deep cleaned, and trampled gardens will need to be revived or replaced.

Molesworth St reopened to traffic on Monday with a reduced speed limit of 30km/h.

This is because big concrete blocks used to contain the protest have been moved to parking bays along the street. They are expected to be removed on Saturday.

Two street lights also needed replacing. Both appeared to have been struck by vehicles and were posing a danger to pedestrians, the council reported.

The bus interchange has undergone a deep clean and bins have all been serviced. Further repair is needed to the glass of the bus shelters.

The grounds around Wellington Cathedral of St Paul look largely unscathed.

Part of the area around the Court of Appeal remains off-limits.

Backbencher Gastropub owner Alistair Boyce said the effort has made a big difference.

“Visually it’s way better looking out the window and Molesworth Street is open and things are getting cleaned up and people are starting to come into the area.”

But Boyce also said the pub had fared no better after the protest than during it.

“The occupation and protest proved a distraction from the main issue, which is we’re stuck in the red traffic light setting with an unworkable and untenable [vaccine] mandate, which inhibits business,” he said.

The pub remained closed because of low foot traffic and staff isolating, Boyce said.

Boyce has managed to open the neighbouring Cellar-Vate cafe, although he said the business did just 25 per cent of normal sales.

Up the road, Home Cafe owner Liz Means confirmed her business has reopened.

“That’s a start, so I guess it’s gone from zero to opening, but it’s incredibly quiet. There are very few people around.”

The cafe is short-staffed because of people isolating. It is open for reduced hours between 8am and 1pm.

“We need things to pick up or we are going to run out of cash,” Means said.

Retail NZ spokesperson Aimie Hines said Wellington retailers had been unduly affected by the protest on top of the red traffic light setting.

“One week later there is a relief that the situation has been resolved. It’s taken away that angst and that’s really important for the mental health and wellbeing for Wellington businesses.

“But they do need people back in stores, and Wellingtonians should be getting out and making the most of this lovely March weather.”

A police spokesperson said there will continue to be a highly visible presence on and around the Parliament grounds to provide reassurance to Wellingtonians over the coming days. This will include the presence of Maori Wardens until Friday.

The scene examination at the grounds has also concluded but the investigation into last Wednesday’s operation “is in its very early stages”, they said.

Police were focused on identifying any criminal offending and continued to appeal for the public’s help to identify anyone involved, including from photos and videos.

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