2 Oct 2015

Parliament protest cost taxpayers $36,000

1:56 pm on 2 October 2015

A climate change protest on the roof of Parliament cost tax payers more than $36,000, but the protesters, who were convicted today, remain proud of their demonstration.

Four protesters scaled the building, placing solar panels on a ledge and unfurling a banner.

Four protesters scaled the building, placing solar panels on a ledge and unfurling a banner. Photo: RNZ / Daniela Maoate-Cox

In June, they used scaffolding at the back of the building and then abseiled on to a ledge where they put up solar panels and unfurled a banner with the face of John Key and the words "Cut pollution, create jobs - yeah, nah."

Jeffrey Charles Harrison, Jonathan Ernest Smith, Abigail Smith and Verena Milenka Maeder were convicted of trespass today at the auckland District Court.

They were ordered to pay $750 in reparations, plus court costs.

But the reparation payment is just a fraction of the reported costs, with Judge Evangelos Thomas describing it as a token payment.

Parliamentary Services said the $36,000 was spent on securing the scaffold to prevent further security breaches and for extra security patrols, but would not provide any further breakdown of those costs.

The protesters' lawyer, Ron Mansfield, told Radio New Zealand the $36,000 cost seemed ridiculous.

He added that it was insignificant, when compared to the cost to lives caused by climate change.

Steven Lack, another of the lawyers representing the protesters, told the court his clients were experienced climbers.

He said they were never at risk and they did not risk the safety of others.

But police prosecutor Lynley Cahill said the authorities who went after the protesters were put at risk.

Judge Thomas agreed and said every time someone undertook a climb like that, there was a risk.

He said the $36,000 spent by authorities could not be used for anything else.

Outside court, protester Jonathan Smith said they were proud of what they had done and that it was time New Zealand took a lead role in fighting climate change.

He said the government was failing New Zealanders.

"We remain proud of what we did and are happy to take full responsibility for our actions, the New Zealand government is failing New Zealand over the biggest issue of our time.

"We're willing to take legal risks because we believe New Zealand can and should be at the forefront of global efforts to tackle climate change."