Peaceful Protesters Enter Pleas Of Not Guilty
Maori protesters who occupied a small piece of land at the Kapiti airport have appeared in the Porirua District Court today facing 23 counts of trespass and one of obstruction.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges and have been remanded until September 2 for a status hearing.
The court hearing was attended by a group of about 30 supporters, who were subdued during proceedings. A small media contingent including two TV cameras was also present.
The protesters were moved off the land from 5pm on Monday, after being warned they were about to be evicted at 4.30pm. The arrested protesters were freed from Paraparaumu police station about 8.30pm.
Spokesperson for the Te Whanau Te A Ngarara protest group, George Jenkins, said in the meantime their invitation to Transport Minister Maurice Williamson and Justice Minister Doug Graham for discussions over the land was still in place.
While an invitation to the Kapiti airport company to come to some arrangement with the group was also open, Jenkins said the real dispute, and the impetus to resolve it, lay with the Crown.
The protesters say that airport land was taken from Kapiti Maori under the Public Works Act and should have been offered back to them when it was no longer required for aviation purposes.
Paraparaumu Airport Ltd bought the airport from the government in 1995 and has already re-sold some of the land.
The occupation was prompted by the airport applying to the Kapiti Council to rezone a further section of land from aviation to industrial use.
Inspector Jim Dunseath of the Porirua Police Station said 25 police officers from Wellington, Porirua and Paraparaumu were used to evict the occupiers after negotiations with the group stalled over the weekend.
Inspector Dunseath said the eviction and arrests were “extremely peaceful” and apart from the one obstruction charge all resistance was passive.
“The people involved in the protest gave us their word there would be no violence and they kept it,” he said.
The protestors had erected tents and shanty structures with large placards on part of the Airport company’s land. Signs read “privatisation sucks” and made references to APEC.