The Speaker of the House has apologised to former Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters for the “unreasonable and irrational” issuing of a now-defunct trespass order.
Speaker Adrian Rurawhe, who took over from former speaker Trevor Mallard on Wednesday, issued the public apology on Thursday afternoon.
Peters in June launched legal action against Mallard, who had in May withdrawn five trespass notices issued against people who attended the weeks-long occupation of Parliament grounds – including Peters.
“The Speaker has admitted to the High Court at Wellington that … to issue Mr Peters a warning under section 4 of the Trespass Act 1980 was unreasonable and irrational,” a statement read.
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“He has further admitted to the High Court that issuing the warning was an unjustified limitation on Mr Peters’ right to freedom of movement … and that Mr Peters had not acted in any way which justified him being issued with the warning.”
Rurawhe said a High Court decision on the matter was pending.
Peters, in a statement issued at the same time as Rurawhe’s, said the apology was a “victory for New Zealanders”.
“This action was taken not for myself, but on behalf of the people of New Zealand to make a stand and fight for our fundamental freedoms, rights, and to protect our democracy,” he said.
“The actions taken by Mr Mallard contrary to the Bill of Rights is a disgraceful indictment on the position and responsibility he had as the Speaker of our House.
”To think that this behaviour is now rewarded with an overseas diplomatic post representing New Zealand on the world stage is a staggering insult to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to every New Zealander.”
Peters, who visited the occupation site briefly after Mallard issued a general trespass notice over the protest, was among former politicians who were trespassed directly, after the occupation ended. He had threatened legal action before Mallard withdrew the order.
Former National Party MP Matt King and former Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox also had trespass orders withdrawn by Mallard.
The trespass orders against former politicians were widely criticised within Parliament as being disproportionate. The orders were among 151 such notices issued to individuals, of which 144 were placed on people arrested during the protest.
The occupation, primarily a protest against the Covid-19 vaccine and mandates, ended in a violent riot in March.
Mallard would take up a posting as ambassador to Ireland in 2023.