Parliament Park has reopened to the public, after three months of repairs
after the property was damaged when anti-warrant protesters rioted.
The grounds were badly damaged during the anti-mandate occupation and riots in February and March.
While the ground has been open for a few weeks, a ceremony officially marked the official reopening on Thursday.
The ceremony was called Mōuri Whenua, Mōuri Tangata, Mōuri Ora, meaning a “ceremony to restore the land, the people and the life of Parliament”.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledged the accessibility the public has always had on the ground.
“Let us reaffirm today what allows us to make this land such an open place, and these are the values that are dear to us as New Zealanders. Where we debate, where we dialogue, where we n I don’t agree, but we do it with respect, with empathy, with kindness.”
Although Ardern did not explicitly acknowledge the occupation, she said protesters would remain welcome.
“It’s also your space, and I think some have joined those grounds,” she said, observing a small climate protest in attendance.
Te Ātiawa Taranaki Whānui President Kara Puketapu-Dentice told the crowd to remain committed to moving from disconnection to reconnection.
“Today we have restored the honor and integrity of our ancestral whenua here. Today we have established our expectation that peace will reign in this place,” he said.
After weeks of rain, the sun came out for the reopening, which took on a festive air. The MP across the house served a sizzle of sausage, as queues for ice cream stretched across the pitch.
“These are probably the first parliamentary grounds that have ever hosted a Mr. Whippy,” Ardern said.
Children from area schools, many of whom were forced to learn from home during the protests, were invited to the ceremony.
“You feel like you’re in touch with the community,” said a student from Thorndon School.
“We were going to come anyway. But the Mr Whippy certainly helps,” said another.
Chairman Trevor Mallard has indicated that further work could be done on the grounds to give them more of a New Zealand identity.
“One of the real benefits of working with mana whenua on this has been the overwhelming realization on the part of many parliamentarians that our parliament is not special enough,” he said.
Mallard said the buildings could have been anywhere in the Commonwealth.
“What I hope is that by the time of the next Matariki we have an approach and a motive that says ‘this is New Zealand’.”