Parliament's $500,000 playground

PHOTO: Parliament’s $500,000 playground opened in 2019 

Parliament’s $500,000 playground opened in 2019 has been set on fire in shocking scenes as police circled in on the demonstration in Wellington.

Firefighters could be seen entering Parliament grounds on Wednesday afternoon after what looked to be multiple fires on Parliament’s front lawn, sending plumes of black smoke billowing into the air.

The playground, which cost $572,000 to build, was in flames, burning under a 100 year old Pōhutukawa tree. A nearby tent was also on fire. Multiple loud bangs and sirens rang out as police tried to clear away tents and other structures. A police chopper circled from above.

The damage to Parliament grounds looks extensive. The forecourt, once boasting a healthy green lawn, is now dug up and covered in trash. It’s also covered in hay – a remnant of the early days of the protest when House Speaker Trevor Mallard set sprinklers on the demonstrators.

Police said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon that officers had removed some of the “makeshift infrastructure from the protest area around Parliament” such as tents, gazebos and toilets to “help restore freedom of movement in the area”.

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Officers could be seen dragging away tent poles while at the same time facing off with angry protesters trying to hold their position. Police have, however, made significant gains.

Police said Fire and Emergency NZ responded to “a number of small fires deliberately lit on Parliament grounds”, which were eventually contained and there were no reports of injuries.