Wellington Scoop

Courtenay Place rally seeks action against sexual violence

courtenay place rally
Photo by Iona Pannett via Twitter

About 500 people tonight attended a rally in Courtenay Place, demanding action against sexual violence and a lack of safety in the central city.

Earlier Report from RNZ by Harry Lock
A coalition of organisations, including students associations and community groups, are setting up the protest.

“It’s about changing the culture that exists in Wellington that is perpetuating sexual violence,” said Jahla Lawrence, one of the rally’s core organisers. “It’s about us coming together and saying that we don’t accept the status quo, that we’ve had enough with feeling unsafe in our city, and that people have the power to make change.

“We’re calling on people in positions of authority – that’s the Wellington City Council, the Government, and Hospitality NZ – to let us live, to [let us] walk around the city, let us engage with the city, let us be part of the city, without feeling that we are unsafe.”

A recent survey showed an increasing number of the city’s residents feel unsafe at night.

The two-yearly Nielsen Quality of Life survey, which questions residents of New Zealand’s largest eight cities, showed only 62 percent of Wellingtonians said they felt safe, down 10 percent on the previous survey.

However, that was still higher than any of the other seven cities in the survey.

Partners in the public and private sphere have recently launched a “social contract”, calling for unified action to make the central city safer.

“We want a vibrant, inclusive CBD, so we’re asking Wellingtonians to join the city’s hospitality and retail sectors and Police in supporting a new social contract for Wellington,” said Mayor Andy Foster. “This means promising to act in a way which will collectively deliver a safer and compassionate city both during the day and at night.”

As part of the contract, the hospitality industry is introducing a code of conduct for patrons and operators, while the Council has pledged to open a community base in an empty shop in the Opera House.

For nearly a year, there has been a conversation around how unsafe the capital is.

In August last year, the police warned there had been a rise in serious violence, after a number of late night brawls.

But Lawrence said a discussion over the threat of sexual violence has only ramped up recently.

“I think in the past couple of months, there has been rising social awareness, particularly as a result of a few different cases around the city which have been picked up within mainstream media.”

In October, the police launched an investigation after a number of allegations were made against a few Wellington musicians, who were accused of rape, sexual assault and violence. In connection with that investigation, one person has been charged, but has pleaded not guilty.

Then in February, police investigated three reports of indecent assault at a Wellington gym’s Christmas party. A man has been charged with indecent assault.

“There’s been a really increasing energy, amongst particularly young people, that they have had enough, they are demanding change,” Lawrence said.

“This is something that has become an issue that is not just about victim survivors, about people who have experienced harm, but that it is actually everybody’s issue, everybody’s problem.”

Wellington’s conversation over how safe women feel was escalated when National Party MP Nicola Willis told Stuff she didn’t feel safe in the central city.

Lawrence said many communities – like trans, Māori, Pasifika or queer communities – have always felt unsafe.

“Because those groups often do not have the power and the platform to communicate how they’re feeling – or people don’t listen to them when they do communicate – then we have not heard those stories.

“Definitely, there is an element of where there are people in positions of racial privilege – white people – who are saying, they also feel unsafe. For a lot of society, people who are white have not had to experience those feelings before. That is privilege, white privilege.

“So when people who are white are saying that they feel unsafe, it’s a new revelation for them, and people are listening. These people have more privilege and they are listened to more.

“While that is not the entire reason that this energy and this momentum, is building, I think it definitely plays into it.”


  1. wendy, 31. March 2021, 12:15

    Bring back Camera Base Wellington!! Strange how violence has increased since WCC decided to close it without consultation and dump the 40+ volunteers working shifts through the night to help the police keep people safe.

  2. Tamatha Paul, 31. March 2021, 23:09

    Deeply proud of our City tonight. Do you know how hard it is to get 500 people out in projected thunderstorms – a testament to the organisers – organised in just a matter of days and still executed with the utmost care to ensure no further harm is caused. [via twitter]

  3. Claire, 1. April 2021, 8:57

    This was a great show of community and protest. Women have been sick of this inappropriate and illegal behaviour from some men for forever.


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