Anti-mining protesters fill Queen St
By Kate Lynch
Around 50,000 people have taken to the streets of Auckland, ordering the Government to stay away from mining conservation land.
It is believed to be one of the biggest protests in Auckland for decades.
Shoulder to shoulder, 50,000 people marched through central Auckland. At one stage they stretched almost the entire length of Queen St.
The protest was led by Greenpeace ambassadors Lucy Lawless and Robyn Malcolm.
"It's great that so many people have turned up," says Malcolm. "It's brilliant. It's what we expected, too. There's been a strong belief over the past few weeks that there are an enormous number of New Zealanders extremely opposed to this."
They are opposed to Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee's proposal to open approximately 7,000 hectares of protected conservation land for mining, to grow the country's income.
Greenpeace says Mr Brownlee is out of step with New Zealanders' values.
"We're at a crossroads," says spokesperson Bunny McDiarmid. "We can decide how we can go forward with our economic development - do we want to do it at the cost of our land, our brand and national reputation, and we're saying no, we don't."
Great Barrier Island, Papaora National Park and parts of the Coromandel are in the firing line.
Three busloads of people came up from Thames to join the protest.
"I want my kids to have a future with a green land," says Victoria Cullen. "We shouldn't be selling off our country for one percent at least.
"We need these parks, our kids need these parks and the world needs the parks. They're ours, not his."
Many of them carried placards aimed at Mr Brownlee and Prime Minister John Key.
One group were taped chanting, "John key is a Dick" repeatedly.
"He's destroying the values that have built this country," says Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei. "This country was built on protecting this land for future generations. He wants to steal that from future generations. That's wrong."
Public pressure has already seen the consultation period for the proposal extended by three weeks after 14,000 submissions were received.
Organisers were hoping to quadruple the number of submissions today.
"We know that the numbers are roughly 50-50 on this," says Mr Brownlee, "so you'd expect a big turnout and we'll continue to handle it in a sensitive manner."
New Zealanders have until the May 26 to make their view heard, one way or the other.