The protest was part of a nationwide hikoi that started at Cape Reinga on Tuesday and aims to reach Wellington by Thursday.
It made its way up Gladstone Road to Te Poho o Rawiri Marae, where a public meeting was held to increase resistance to the privatisation agenda.
Protest organisers were pleased with the turnout and further action is planned over coming weeks as public concerns grow about the “poor economic rationale for privatisation, and issues like petroleum exploration and land sales to foreigners”.
Haley Maxwell, a mother and kapa haka supporter at the protest, said she loved kapa haka but these issues were more important to her than winning the national kapa haka competition.
Railways advocate Ron Elder said the railway was an excellent example of the folly of privatisation. The railway system in private hands had been stripped of any assets of real value and they were sold overseas while the physical infrastructure was sorely neglected, he said.
Ani Pahuru-Huriwai, from Hicks Bay, talked about the importance of protecting sea and land, which many families on the Coast relied on for their sustenance. But extractive industries were putting that lifestyle at risk.
The Green Party’s Dr Lesley Hawkins said it was difficult to make lifestyle choices that meant lower energy consumption, but this was important in the face of diminishing cheap fossil fuels and the contribution they make to climate change.
The meeting agreed on the need for urgent personal and public change toward a more sustainable future and maintaining public assets and land in New Zealanders ownership.
(Photo: Georgina Johnson)