Warning: Video images in this story may be distressing to some viewers.
A 55-year-old Waiheke Island marina construction site security guard was “repeatedly” kicked in the head by a protester, shoved into a narrow hole on a pontoon and could have drowned, the developer says.
Kitt Littlejohn, a director of Kennedy Point Marina, responded to last week’s media reports and video images showing that security guard face-kicking a protester.
Littlejohn stressed the company did not condone any violence but he said the few seconds captured on video pre-face kick were crucial to understanding the wider context of how events last Wednesday unfolded.
“What immediately preceded this widely-viewed altercation was a disturbing incident in which one of the protesters repeatedly kicked a 55-year-old security guard in the head as he lay on the pontoon, having been shoved there after trying to prevent access onto the pontoon.
“He was subsequently pushed into the water by the protester and into a narrow cavity where he sustained a head injury and could have drowned. This serious assault happened amid a backdrop of verbally and physically abusive protesters attacking the security and construction team who were lawfully trying to stop them trespassing into what is a clearly marked active construction zone,” Littlejohn said.
The violent exchange occurred on July 7.
Emily Weiss of Protect Pūtiki said on Friday that the person who was face-kicked had returned to the protest site.
Weiss said on Friday the person who was face-kicked last Wednesday had sustained injuries. The person, who was a woman, did not want to discuss the situation, Weiss told the Herald.
Protesters have been occupying the site for more than 120 days, saying work endangers a nearby kororā (little blue penguin) colony, disputing the resource consent and saying they have mana whenua.
Littlejohn said today that the protester was trespassing within the active construction zone.
“The company does not condone unprovoked violence from anyone and its priority continues to be the health and safety of its construction crew, members of the public and the protesters.
“We are very concerned about the protesters’ actions at the site and how they have escalated tensions, including by using the media to garner support for their position and cast the company in a negative light,” he said.
This first face-kick video footage was portrayed as an isolated incident “when in fact it is not an accurate representation of what took place on the day. Nor is it representative of the unlawful conduct of these so-called peaceful protesters over several months.
The marina developer was conducting an internal review of the events that unfolded and is assisting police with their enquiries, he said.
This followed many other incidents of violence and verbal abuse directed towards the construction crew and wider team in recent months, Littlejohn complained.
“The company has always known that there are those who oppose this development and accepts that they are entitled to express their views about the approval that was granted.
“But the fact is, it has been approved, a resource consent to build is in hand, and the company is in full compliance with the conditions of that consent. The consent was only obtained after public consultation and a publicly notified process over 2016 to 2018,” he said.
The company had consulted with Ngāti Pāoa, Ngāi Tai ki Tāmaki and other mana whenua representatives who did not oppose it, he said.
Littlejohn thanked the police “for doing their best in a highly tense situation. The company will continue working with them to manage what is a difficult environment and to ensure that its legal authority to build is able to be exercised. “The construction crew and site security staff are simply trying to do their jobs to protect the construction area from trespassers. They have a right to go to work without being verbally abused or physically assaulted.”
Work at the site has stopped today due to protester actions. Police are involved, a spokesperson said.
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