A year on from the occupation of Parliament grounds, the community is still counting the cost of the nearly month-long protest.
Nearby residents, businesses and schools took time to reflect on last year’s tumultuous events.
On a sunny day in Wellington the sight of people relaxing on the grass at the foot of the parliament buildings was a far cry from the improvised hive of humanity that, a year ago, covered almost every inch of the grounds with tents and stalls while vehicles clogged the surrounding streets.
The only sign of the chaos that unfolded, as protesters were evicted from the area, were scorchmarks on the trees and an out of place patch of asphalt where bricks were torn from the ground to hurl at advancing police.
Morgan Jakob watched the end of the protest from her apartment on Kate Shepherd place.
“It was like watching a movie. We saw the fire go up and we actually had protesters climbing up our scaffolding to try and get up to the balcony,” Jakob said.
Vic Books’ Pipitea Campus store and cafe shut down for the protests and closed for good five months later.
General manager Jessica Godfrey said the shop’s sister store in Kelburn would also close in March.
She said the protest and the flow on effects of the pandemic had effectively killed off both businesses.
“Back then a lot of our customers were too scared to come in. They couldn’t because one of our doors had people sleeping there and the campus emptied. It’s been tough but here’s no point in blaming anyone,” Godfrey said.
Jasmine Wood worked for Cafe Vanilla on Aitken Street. The business had shut down its eat in facilities when protesters refused to wear masks indoors.
“It hasn’t been the same since. It’s so much more quiet. It just disrupted businesses and [was] a nuisance for everyone,” Wood said.
Joey Shannon was having his lunch in the shade of one of the trees that still bore the marks of the fires of the occupation’s final day.
He said he was glad the grounds had been rebuilt and remained accessible to the public.
“I was a bit worried that we’d lose this as a public space, that security priorities would take over and we’d lose perspective. So I’m really please to see that hasn’t happened,” Shannon said.
Wellington Girls’ College principal Julia Davidson said the protest dominated her students’ year.
She said the reopening ceremony at parliament represented an important moment of healing for her school and the community.
Davidson was looking forward to a calmer, more focussed 2023.
“As we start this year everyone is feeling so much lighter and so much more positive. This year is a fresh start,” Davidson said.
Klarissa Plimmer worked in the parliamentary precinct during the protest.
When she spoke to RNZ she was having coffee outside the bustling Word of Mouth cafe on Molesworth Street. She said she felt the country had moved on from the protests.
“I think it really got out of control, but people needed to have a voice and in a healthy democracy you need that. But whether it was worth the damage, and some of the reputational damage to New Zealand? I’m not so sure,” Plimmer said.
Story Credit: rnz.co.nz