Wellington City Council says staff and contractors are standing by and ready to start returning the streets around Parliament to Wellingtonians after the capital was disrupted by anti-vaccine mandate protestors over the last few weeks.
Council says work will be needed to remove rubbish and items left by protest occupiers, deep-clean street furniture and infrastructure, and to check and repair city assets in the area including roads, signs, lights and wastewater pipes.
Initial work with mana whenua and central government is also underway to consider the restoration of the mana and mauri of the area, with details of the process to be announced in the coming days, it said.
“Since 8 February, those who live, work and go to school in the area around Parliament have been subjected to significant levels of abuse and harassment, with streets illegally blocked by vehicles associated with the occupation,” Council said in a statement.
“Anti-social behaviour associated with the illegal occupation has also increased across the city.”
Following a largescale Police operation to clear the area on Wednesday, the area around Parliament is currently under Police control, but will be handed back to Wellington City Council once their operation to clear the area is complete.
WCC Chief Executive, Barbara McKerrow said the past three weeks had been an incredibly challenging and upsetting time for many in the city.
“Wellingtonians have experienced prolonged disruption to their lives. We fully understand their frustrations and concerns, and are looking forward to returning Wellington to Wellingtonians,” she said.
She said council staff and contractors were ready to move into the area and begin a thorough rubbish removal and deep clean. Given the presence at the occupation of people known to have COVID-19, making sure all services are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected is a top priority.
Council staff will also perform a comprehensive inspection of the area, checking all assets including the road and footpaths, sumps, lights, road signs, and other infrastructure.
Public art and sculptures will be assessed for damage by a specialist team and Wellington Water inspectors will check and repair any damage to public water and wastewater infrastructure.
Ms McKerrow said the Council is aware of – and heartened by – public support for a community working bee-style clean-up.
“But given the significant health and safety issues – and the recent presence of people with Covid – we’re asking Wellingtonians to please stay away in the first instance and leave the initial clean-up to our professional cleaners who are trained in such operations.”
She said the dignity of the Wellington public in the face of the prolonged disruption was admirable.
“We’re grateful for Wellingtonians’ patience throughout this unique and challenging situation.”
Ms McKerrow also thanked the Police for their professionalism throughout the occupation, and their resolve in the face of the violent reaction they faced at Parliament on Wednesday.
She thanked the numerous Council staff members who have worked tirelessly with Police and other agencies to return our city streets to law-abiding Wellingtonians.
“I am extremely proud and appreciative of the way the Council and Police have worked so closely and collaboratively throughout,” said Ms McKerrow.