Protestor Encampment At Ōwairaka / Mt Albert Removed Following COVID-19 Lockdown Breaches
An illegal encampment of tents and marquees on the Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura / Mt Albert Maunga has attracted breaches of the Covid-19 level 4 lockdown rules and has been removed.
The encampment was set up by a group protesting the Tūpuna Maunga Authority’s plans to restore the native vegetation on the Maunga. The unlawful occupation has continued since November last year.
The Tūpuna Maunga Authority has learned that during the alert level 4 lockdown the ‘Honour the Maunga’ protest group has encouraged its members to maintain an around-the-clock presence at Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura / Mt Albert by working in surveillance shifts. The Authority has received reports of people gathering at the encampment, and reports of people moving parts of the encampment around and erecting new protest signs.
Paul Majurey, Chair of the Tūpuna Maunga Authority says that all these activities are in clear breach of the level 4 lockdown rules, and the removal was a necessary action to protect the health and safety of Maunga visitors, staff and contractors as the Covid-19 crisis continues.
“As everyone is by now well aware, New Zealand is under a COVID-19 level 4 alert status with clear and strict rules set by the government that all organised public gatherings are cancelled, everyone except those providing essential services should stay at home, people must only make physical contact with those that they live with, and that people can only visit local outdoor spaces for the purpose of exercising alone or with those they live with.”
“The protest group has flaunted those rules by remaining active at the encampment, placing themselves and others at risk. The Authority was forced to take the responsible step of removing the encampment to eliminate the chance of further gatherings and activity not compliant with lockdown rules,” says Majurey.
Majurey adds that while non-essential work and maintenance on the Maunga has been paused during the lockdown, staff are on standby to address urgent matters of public health and safety while adhering to rules on physical distancing.
All tents, marquees and contents within have been securely stored for return to their owners once changes to the alert level allows that to occur. The Authority has sent a letter to the protest group outlining the action taken.
Removal of the encampment is supported by the New Zealand Police, and is supported by relevant legislation.
Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura / Mt Albert is a recreation reserve under the Reserves Act 1977 and the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act 2014. Reserves Act 1977 section 44(1) states ‘Except with the consent of the Minister, no person shall use a reserve, or any building, vehicle, boat, caravan, tent, or structure situate thereon, for purposes of permanent or temporary personal accommodation.’ Reserves Act 1977 section 93(1) states ‘Any officer may summarily interfere to prevent any actual or attempted breach of this Act.’
The power to provide Ministerial consent under Reserves Act 1977 section 44 is delegated to the Tūpuna Maunga Authority under the Reserves Act delegations to territorial authorities, and by virtue of section 111 of the Ngā Mana Whenua o Tāmaki Makaurau Collective Redress Act 2014.
The Tūpuna Maunga Authority did not issue consent for the numerous tents and marquees at Ōwairaka / Te Ahi-kā-a-Rakataura / Mt Albert, and no consent was sought by the protestors.
Authority staff will monitor the Maunga for any further signs of lockdown rules being breached.