NZ banks’ terms & conditions for handing customer data to the police

Nicky Hager’s lawyer Felix Geiringer  asks: What do New Zealand’s leading banks say in their terms and conditions about handing their customers’ data to Police and other Govt agencies?

They say they will hand over customer to data in breach of Privacy Act. Westpac have apologised to Hager and have promised to change their terms

But the other major banks have made vague assertions that they will not breach customer privacy but still have dodgy terms, and have not made a commitment to change their terms to comply with the law.

Regardless of views about Hager’s use of hacked data, this is an important issue for everyone.

Via Twitter @BarristerNZ:

There has been significant publicity over Westpac’s decision to hand Nicky Hager’s data to Police. But this issue was never limited to Westpac.

A study conducted by the OPC in 2015 suggested that our financial institutions might have been releasing to Govt the data of close to 10,000 customers per annum without a warrant / production order.

Possibly close to 10,000 customers each year! And this appears to have been happening for over a decade.

Plus, all our banks, not just Westpac, had entered into a written agreement with NZ Police to give over customers data without warrants or productions orders.

Basically, all our banks promised Police that they would breach the Privacy Act if Police asked them to. And it looks like Police may have made many thousands of such requests.

Westpac said to Hager that its terms permitted the release. The OPC rejected the argument that those terms could be relied upon. However, Westpac terms, on their face, did set a much lower bar for releasing data than our Privacy or Search and Surveillance legislation.

Westpac have apologised for its breach, and it has also promised to change its terms. There will now be an enforceable contractual promise from that bank to customers that it will not do this again.

What about other banks?

I am told that in answer to journalists’ questions some other banks have made vague assertions that they will not breach customer privacy. But what do their terms actually say?

Kiwibank’s terms are very similar to the ones Westpac had at the time of the Hager release.

Kiwibank’s terms assert that, by banking with it, you authorise it to release your data to Police whenever Kiwibank thinks it will help Police with an investigation.

That test bypasses the protections that parliament has put in place which limit releases to circumstances where Police can objectively establish reasonable grounds to believe the data is evidence of a crime.

ANZ’s terms are almost the same again, arguably even looser. It says that by banking with it you agree that it can give your data to Police if it believes that doing so will help prevent crime.

ASB’s terms are more open to interpretation. It can release data to Police when required to by law. There can be no objection to that. But it can also release data in a variety of other circumstances.

ASB’s terms define the purposes for which it is holding your data to include to “investigate illegal activity”. The terms allow release to 3rd parties for this purpose. However, the Govt isn’t expressly listed as one of those 3rd parties.

If the list of 3rd parties in ASB’s terms is read as a closed list, it arguably has the best terms. If it is not read as a closed list, then it has one of the worst terms.

BNZ’s terms are clear, and are clearly the worst of those discussed here. Its terms claim that you have authorised it to share your data with Police or other Govt agencies for the purpose of detecting any crime.

The circumstances of release permitted by BNZ’s terms are astoundingly broad. Those terms have little regard for the duty to protect the secrecy of BNZ’s customers’ information.

I haven”t analysed TSB’s terms.

So, there you have it, and I think that this raises serious questions. We know the NZ banks were doing a very bad job of protecting our private data. They say they are doing better now, but are they?

And, if these banks are now not handing over data to Police without a warrant or production order, why is this still not reflected in their terms?

Principle 11, Privacy Act 1993 – 6 Information privacy principles: Limits on disclosure of personal information


A hero called Mohammed

A fairly typical Kiwi thing – stepping up and doing what can be done in an emergencyh, but in this case a bit more than normal, saving someone’s life.

Economist warning on global financial markets

ANZ economist Sharon Zollner was interviewed on Q+A on Sunday.

A stark warning came from ANZ Economist Sharon Zollner.

“I think it’s fair to say that some things are starting to smell a bit like 2007 out there in global financial market land”, she said.

Whilst she acknowledges there are “still plenty of tailwinds” to the so called ‘rock star economy’, she says, “a number of those tailwinds seem to be running out of puff.”

“Our major vulnerability, I’d say, is Auckland house prices – how stretched they are. And also consumer debt, mostly mortgage debt, is now at a record high relative to income.”

Video: Q + A – Food exports

Corin Dann and Sharon Zollner from ANZ discuss current exporters’ success in overseas markets


CORIN Statistics New Zealand released its latest stats this week showing that food prices had increased 3% in the year to September. That follows a 2.3% increase in the year to August. The main culprits? Dairy exports, butter, fresh milk, cheese and yoghurt, were all more expensive, which isn’t great for your household budget, but it is a sign of the good prices our food exporters are getting in their overseas markets. How long will that last?

It’s a good question for my next guest – Sharon Zollner, a senior economist at ANZ Bank.

That is one bright spot, isn’t it, for the economy – that our export prices have held up pretty well recently, haven’t they?

SHARON Yes, that is true, and they’ve held up better than hard commodity prices, for example. So the price of our main dairy export, whole milk powder, is holding up better than iron ore, for example – Australia’s main single commodity export. So that’s been showing up in our cross rate.

CORIN In saying that, though, what’s the outlook for the next government, as they come in and they’re confronted with their first briefing from Treasury on the state of the economy. It is looking a little softer going forward, isn’t it?

SHARON I think that’s probably fair. Yes, the summary would probably say the economy’s doing rather well and that’s still plenty of tailwinds, and that is true. But a number of those tailwinds seem to be running out of puff a little bit at the same time – not in terms of necessarily falling, but in terms of their growth flattening out a little bit.

CORIN So, that’s your– Obviously, strong immigration, tourism, construction – the big three. They all– Is the outlook for them all coming off a little bit?

SHARON A little. It’s flattening off. The housing market is another one I would add to that list. Obviously, it’s tied in with construction. House prices are actually falling in Auckland at the moment.

At the moment, we’re seeing consumers remaining remarkably resilient, at least when you survey them about how they’re feeling, how they’re– about their own finances, about the economy as a whole. They sound very confident, but what we’ve actually seen is some weakness in actual spending, so maybe they’re not putting their money where their mouth is.

CORIN Talk to me about housing markets. So, there will be some people at home, and I know they will be thinking, “Oh, it’s the election. It’s the uncertainty of an election, and it’s all going to bounce back into life. We’ll get its late-Spring bounce.” Is that going to happen?

SHARON I’m sceptical. Auckland house prices are very, very high relative to incomes. I mean, they’re world-beating on a metric you don’t really want to be leading the world in, and that’s a real risk for the economy, and I think the LVR restrictions, the restrictions on high loan to value ratio lending for investors have really made a big difference.

We’ve seen investor lending pull back sharply. At the same time, the banks are also pulling back on that lending, and it’s not clear that that’s all going to free up any time soon.

CORIN So why are the banks–? I notice two- and three-year fixed mortgage rates are coming down. Is there a bit of a mortgage war starting up in that space? What’s going on there?

SHARON I think things have eased up a little bit. It’s very clear the Reserve Bank is on an extended holiday. We’ve pencilled in an OCR hike in the second half of next year, but it’s in a 6B pencil. It’s really with an eraser on the end. It’s not a strong-conviction view. So, you’ve got monetary policy on hold.

You’ve got global funding costs have stabilised. And now I think banks are starting to compete a little bit more for some of that mortgage lending.

CORIN I wonder if the next government – it’s going to be New Zealand First flavoured regardless of what shade it is. But there is going to be some spending promises, and it would imply that we might see some more spending from a government – let’s call it ‘a government’. How is the economy likely to respond to that? Is that actually going to be, perhaps, welcomed? When you look at the Reserve Bank governor, he’s probably looking for a bit of inflation, isn’t he?

SHARON Yes, but what we’ve seen in recent years is that more activity hasn’t necessarily flowed in to more inflation. So that whole model that the inflation targeting is based on, that’s stronger than sustainable activity leads to stronger inflation, and you can kill two birds with one stone by raising interest rates – that model seems to have broken. It’s not just in New Zealand. It’s around the whole world.

And that’s a conundrum from monetary policy everywhere. But it is certainly true that if some of the other drivers of activity are coming off, then that’s not bad timing for a little bit of a fiscal boost, perhaps.

CORIN Do we need…? Is there, sort of, an amount that we need? Or is it just… Will the economy roll with it?

SHARON Yeah, the economy does its own thing to a large extent. I think there’s a bit of a tendency for people to give the government more credit and more blame than it perhaps deserves for the business cycle, which is more driven by exchange rates, interest rates, commodity prices, more than actual fiscal policy.

Of course, government policy is very important for the long-run, in terms of education and productivity and competitiveness, and all those sorts of things that determine your long-run trend, sustainable growth rate. But in terms of the business cycle, it’s really not an easy thing to try to steer.

CORIN Are markets, foreign investors, businesses, whatever, going to be freaked out if there is radical change to our monetary policy settings? Personally, I don’t think there will be radical change, but, I mean, is that a risk?

SHARON If we did see radical change, then, yes, I think there is a risk that markets could do a bit of a double-take. I think, in some sense, there’s a bit of an expectation that New Zealand is no longer the rock star, that we might be coming off that particular pedestal, so any negative news might have a larger impact than otherwise. I think perhaps people are looking for a reason to sell the New Zealand dollar, rather than buy it at the moment, just because the rest of the globe is doing better, and consistently so.

The range of growth rates around the countries in the world is very narrow at the moment – unusually narrow. And it’s looking like New Zealand, just as we led into the upswing, may be the first to peak in terms of growth rates as well.

CORIN Let’s talk about some potential shocks that this new government could face. We’ve obviously got– There’s always a risk around China and its debt, and, I guess, the US stock market, including our stock markets, have had a huge run. Are there some sort of, you know, scary risks out there that we need to think about?

SHARON Certainly, there are. I think it’s fair to say that some things are starting to smell a bit like 2007 out there in global financial market land. ‘There’s been a bull market in everything,’ as the Economist called it.

And that’s completely understandable, because the price of borrowing money has been at record lows for a very long time, and so the price of anything you could borrow money to buy has been pushed up, whether that’s equities, commercial property, residential property, collector cars, fine art – you name it, it has all benefited from this extreme monetary policy stimulus.

CORIN Just not wages?

SHARON Just not wages, not inflation. It’s been a bizarre time, but it is probably fair to say that the quality of the growth that we’ve seen since 2008 has not been great. It’s been fuelled by debt and by leverage. And at some point, that debt has to be paid back.

CORIN Well, the question then is – how well prepared is New Zealand for that?

SHARON That’s an interesting question. In some ways, we’re in better state than we were in 2007. In particular, our current account is very contained. We haven’t got–

CORIN Our debt to the world, if you like?

SHARON In a way, yeah. The cumulative addition to the debt in our debt to the world. Our net foreign debt is low. It’s lower than Australia. It’s much lower than it was in 2007. But our major vulnerability, I’d say, is Auckland house prices – how stretched they are. And also consumer debt, mostly mortgage debt, is now at a record high relative to income.

So the best-case scenario is that that dampens growth going forward in a very smooth, even fashion. The worst-case scenario is that everybody’s tomorrow arrives all at the same time and consumers go into something of a panic about their mortgage payments.

CORIN So, we need Auckland house prices– Or the next government would quite like Auckland house prices just to sit flat and for wages to catch up – that’s the best-case scenario?

SHARON It is. It’s not historically what tended to happen, but that is certainly–

CORIN So what’s historically tended…?

SHARON Well, real house prices, at least, tend to– Well, they go up, and they go down.

CORIN What are you forecasting for the Auckland housing market, then?

SHARON Well, we don’t forecast Auckland house prices specifically, but I guess, unless you get some sort of negative shock, then, yes, they should hold up OK; unless we get migration dropping sharply or a big outflow of people to Australia.

But what’s happening there with the Australian government making it increasingly uncomfortable for New Zealanders living over there, would suggest that we may see a change in the historical drain that we’ve had to Australia, because, for example, parents with children who are approaching university age may not be able to afford to stay there.

CORIN That’s interesting, because that means that even if a new government was to put curbs on immigration, they can’t stop New Zealanders or Australians coming back here, can they? Won’t affect that flow.

SHARON No, that is true. It is very difficult, actually, to target any kind of net migration number, because New Zealand passports come and go as they wish, and there’s a lot of New Zealand passports in Australia, for example.

CORIN So, the government’s in reasonably good position, obviously, with its debt to deal with any potential crisis, They’re in reasonable– That’s right, isn’t it? Not too bad, are they, in terms of government debt?


CORIN But the Reserve Bank doesn’t have a lot of room to move this time around if we were to get in to a lot of trouble, does it?

SHARON No, and our official cash rate is at record lows. It’s lower than it was at the absolute trough of the recession following the global financial crisis, which is quite a remarkable statistic, but in that kind of situation, but that doesn’t, unfortunately, mean that our situation is any better.

It just means we’re all in the same boat, but last time, when the GFC hit, the OCR was over eight, and we cut it down to two. So we cut it by 600 basis points. Now we could cut it maybe 100. And I don’t think we could do the kind of money printing, quantitative easing…

CORIN Can’t go below zero.

SHARON …that¬– No. I think we’d be laughed out of town as a small, very risky– well, nation that is seen as risky, because we’re a small commodity exporter. We’re not the nation’s default asset like the US Treasury bond market. We don’t have that kind of power.



Consumer confidence 3 year high

The ANZ-Roy Morgan New Zealand Consumer Confidence is at a 3 year high.


  • ANZ-Roy Morgan New Zealand Consumer Confidence hit a three-year high in September. It points to an ongoing decent pace of spending and activity growth.

  • The softer housing market and election uncertainty have failed to dent consumer optimism.

  • House price expectations cooled further, while inflation expectations were steady.

Nothing appears able to clip consumers’ wings at present. The ANZ-Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Index lifted from 126.2 to 129.9 in September, which is the highest level since July 2014. Once we adjust for seasonality, the index rose by 2 points to also be at its highest level since July 2014. After its recent low in April, the seasonally adjusted index has surged over 15 points.

ANZ-Roy Morgan New Zealand Consumer Confidence Rating - September 2017 - 129.9

So things look good for whoever the new government is.


Cash rate stays, foreign buyers go

Yesterday the Governor or the Reserve Bank, Graeme Wheeler, announced there would be no change to the record low cash rate of 2.25% and also warned that property investors could soon be targeted with new Loan to Value ration rules.

Wheeler said that rising house prices as a risk to the country’s financial stability.

Later in the day, possibly in part at least in response, the Westpac and ANZ banks said they would no longer lend to overseas buyers of New Zealand properties due to financial risks.

This follows similar moves recently in Australia. Other banks are expected to do likewise.

This is expected and hoped to have some impact on escalating property prices.

NZ Herald: Westpac, ANZ Bank shut out foreign buyers

Westpac New Zealand has announced that from today it will no longer lend to non-resident borrowers with overseas income.

Borrowers on temporary resident visas will only be accepted if they have both a New Zealand address and a New Zealand-based income.

ANZ has also announced restrictions that will effectively shut out most non-resident, overseas-based borrowers, including restricting lending to owner-occupied properties.

The restrictions will not affect New Zealand passport holders living abroad and purchasing property funded by overseas income.

A Westpac spokeswoman said the restrictions “reduces risk”.

“Verification of foreign applications is essential to meeting our lending criteria and obligations, but is operationally difficult in these cases.”

An ANZ spokesman said the changes were made to ensure the bank was “appropriately positioned in the current housing environment, taking into account supply pressure in certain areas”.

Auckland mortgage broker Bruce Patten, of mortgage brokerage Loan Market, said he expected more banks to follow Westpac and ANZ.

The majority of non-resident, overseas-based buyers would take out New Zealand bank loans for purchases here, unless they paid cash, Mr Patten said.

“Most banks around the world won’t take security in a country other than their own…it is going to cut any overseas purchases out.”

Mr Patten believed the change was partly driven by the Australian-owned banks wanting to follow developments across the Tasman – but there could also have been pressure from Government or the Reserve Bank.

“If this has an impact on slowing the house price rise down, then perhaps they might decide that they don’t need to bring [other] measures in.”

Time will tell how much effect this will have on the property market and house prices.

Protest blockade and backlash

An interesting insight has been given into protest, with an insider analysis of the protest against the ANZ last week in Dunedin where the most attention was given to an old women having trouble clambering over protesters who were blocking the bank doorway.

The protesters seem indignant that the media didn’t promote their cause – to halt all financing of fossil fuel extraction and all use of fossil fuels.

They were also indignant that the police allowed and encouraged people to push through and climb over protesters. But they were disappointed the police didn’t forcibly remove them from their blockade, which they seem to have thought would have given them positive media coverage.


It has taken me a while to gather my thoughts about the ANZ blockades in Dunedin on Thursday. There has been a lot to process. Some of you may have seen the media sh** storm that followed- but let’s start at the beginning.

What did we do? At 8am on Thursday morning, a large group of us gathered in the Octagon for a briefing. At 8:40 we made our way down the road to two ANZ branches on opposite corners of the street. One hundred and thirty of us lined the pavement with banners and sat in rows against the doors to blockade the banks.

Why? Because ANZ have 13.5 billion dollars invested in fossil fuels. That money is helping to fund exploration and extraction of oil, gas and coal. Let’s be clear- the climate is in crisis. Deserts are growing, with droughts, floods, fires and storms becoming more common. The climate is changing faster than expected. All fossil fuels we burn increase the speed and intensity of these changes. A changing climate is the biggest threat to human life. Therefore, any decision to fund climate-polluting activities is violent. No two ways around it.

If all funding of climate polluting activities was stopped the world would be a very different place, and not necessarily better. The population is probably to large to all revert to subsistence living.

ANZ bank is profiting from funding projects like the Carmichael coal mine in Queensland, Australia. The mine is a direct assault on the ancestral land of indigenous peoples. The emissions from this proposed mine would wreak havoc on the climate, thus endangering human lives.

Our blockade of ANZ didn’t come out of the blue- it came after 2 years of lobbying the bank to divest from fossil fuels. Letters, meetings, public engagement, the lot. ANZ refused to pull their support from the fossil fuel industry. They carried on with business as usual. So we’re left with the decision- allow them to continue funding hazardous activities, or act? We chose to act. If business as usual is harmful, then we had to interrupt their business as usual. We had a moral obligation to shut them down.

I don’t doubt their sincerity but claiming moral superiority is fraught with contradictions and complexities.

In Christchurch, Hamilton and Wellington, 350 protesters had succeeded in getting bank branches to close for the day. After these successes, we felt it was time to step it up. When we saw the sheer volume of people lining up outside the two banks, we boldly decided to take a group back up the road to blockade the doors of a third ANZ branch. This is what civil disobedience is about.

Using the human resources you have to disrupt as much harmful activity as you can. So we got another group seated outside the doors of the third bank, arms linked, in peaceful protest. We were trespassing on ANZ’s property, obstructing their doors, and everyone was aware that we could be removed or arrested by police. At that point, we could never have anticipated how the day would unfold.

So they planned to be disruptive and potentially law breaking.

We thought of three scenarios: the banks would close (as they had in other cities), the police would arrest us, or move us aside. None of those things happened. The banks kept their doors open, and when customers approached the blockade, police encouraged them to use ‘reasonable force’ to get through us. It is one of those surreal situations where you have no idea what is happening, even when it is happening in front of you.

Once getting the go ahead from police, many customers waded over the top of people sitting on the ground. Suddenly people were getting trodden on, and catching heels to their faces. We were shocked. We had not anticipated that the bank would remain open and actively encourage people to climb through us. We had not expected to be pitted against the public. The police had every cause to move us out of the way, but they didn’t.

So they wanted the police to use reasonable force to move them but they didn’t think the public should use reasonable force to go about their legal business.

If anything, we had the customers’ interests at heart – their money should not be used to fund operations that harm people.

They thought they were morally able to decide what was best for others, despite their wishes to use their bank.

…a disturbing number of customers began to launch themselves through our lines of people before I could even explain our position. People were getting kicked and trodden on, all with reassurances from the police that it was acceptable to do so. It was the active encouragement from police that gave customers the confidence to walk over my group. It is quite scary to see how ready people are to act forcefully and violently when people in positions of power encourage them.

We were caught off-guard by this strategy- police were not actively moving us, but encouraging the public to confront us. I was often brushed aside by police as I tried to explain the situation to customers. A couple of students in the back row of our blockade had tears running down their faces- just from the sheer shock of being physically hurt by members of the public.

The old lady later apologised for standing on one protester – who wouldn’t move to allow her to go into the bank.

I don’t know whether public and police actions were appropriate or not.

But many of the publicly really don’t like being obstructed from doing what they want to do. Some degree of annoyance and some degree of not agreeing with the protest should have been expected.

Committing to civil disobedience is quite a big step. Once you have made the choice to create a blockade, there is a strong moral obligation to stay put until you are removed, or until you achieve your objective. We expected to be moved out of the way. We were caught out by the tactics of ANZ- by keeping the bank open and encouraging customers to push through us they put us into conflict with their customers- making the action vs the public.

Our target was ANZ, not their customers, but the bank successfully victimised themselves by instructing police to leave us be, while staff comforted customers that managed to make it into the bank. This was cunning, and it worked.

The bank looked after their customers and didn’t do what the protesters wanted. That shouldn’t be surprising.

At long last the media showed up. Just in time to see an 85 year old woman being escorted by police over the lines of peaceful protesters. They had their story. Young activists block an elderly woman from her monthly trip to the bank. A tangible, visible victim that all New Zealanders can sympathise with. We can all agree- that situation should never have occurred. That woman should never have been escorted over the top of people. She should have been taken to the back entrance where the door was not blockaded. Staff let her out of this door, but made her wade in through our blockade.

I don’t think staff made her do anything. The woman chose to go through the public entrance to the bank.

 Alternatively, the four police officers could have moved us out of the way in a matter of seconds, and cleared a safe path for customers to enter the bank. The police are there to ensure public safety and they failed to do so. Their first priority should have been to keep the public (which includes us) safe. They had an obligation to ensure that nobody was put at risk, and that nobody came to physical harm. They did neither of these things.

Alternatively the protesters could have moved aside, and spoken to people and promoted their message as they went past.

But the wanted the police to move them – and how would that have worked? Would they have allowed themselves to be passively moved aside, or did they want to provoke attention that would get them sympathetic media coverage?

In the media coverage, the burden of responsibility for that woman’s distress was placed solely with us. The coverage successfully removed responsibility from ANZ and the police, who worked together to create that scenario.

In large part it was their responsibility.

Now don’t get me wrong- as a group we need to take responsibility for the collateral damage of our actions.

Do they think they are a moral army?

When we’re going against powerful institutions we will inconvenience people, people will take it personally, and we will hurt people’s feelings. That is the unfortunate reality of direct action, and it does upset us.

They could always do things in a way that won’t upset and inconvenience the public.

But the damage being done by the prevailing status quo is far more immense, far more devastating and far more invisible. From 2030 to 2050 climate change is expected to kill an additional 250,000 people per year. Malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress will take an increasing number of lives.

ANZ is funding this crisis, and profiting from operations that will cause humans immeasurable suffering.

If there were any questions about the moral implications of Thursday’s action they should have been directed at ANZ. How can they justify investments in climate polluting projects, which will mean that hundreds and thousands of women and men will miss out on the opportunity to grow old at all? That level of injustice is so completely unimaginable that we block it out, and focus instead on the immediate and localized impacts of direct actions.

Trying to justify their actions because of what they see as a cause of greater good.

If I were able to make an apology to the elderly woman who had to cross over our lines, it would be this:

“I am sorry that we live in a world where powerful institutions spend your money on climate pollution. I’m sorry that ANZ, the media and the police used your discomfort for their own agenda- to delegitimise an urgent and valid cause. I’m sorry that you were pushed over us instead of being escorted to a back door. And most of all, I am sorry that you thought we were against you, when we actually care deeply about every human being on the planet.”

The protesters wanted to impose inconvenience of the woman and other members of the public for their own agenda.

It sounds like they care more about their own cause than the effect of their actions on the public, and are so intent on stopping fossil fuel use don’t seem to consider that if fossil fuel use was suddenly ceased it would cause widespread and severe collateral damage.

It has been incredibly painful and interesting to watch the media fallout from this action. We were painted very clearly as aggressors, out to prevent the public from going about their business. What’s interesting is that people who are pushing for social change will always be held to a much higher moral standard than any other group.

Really? This group seems to see itself as having much higher moral standards, but most people just want them to comply with normal standards of not obstructing people from going about their rightful business.

The media vilified us for inconveniencing members of the public- and yes, we did inconvenience many people on Thursday. But ANZ’s funding of oil, gas, and coal extraction will literally kill people. Untold numbers of people. The moral consequences of our action are completely incomparable to the moral consequences of ANZ’s investments- yet we were the ones hung out to dry by the media.

Because their protest imposed unnecessary inconvenience on members of the public.

Unfortunately, people tend to scrutinize the behavior of protesters and pounce on the negative consequences of our actions as a way of avoiding uncomfortable truths- the institutions that we trust and support with our money are violent. We’re not ready to accept that our daily lives hold up violent systems, that the institutions we trust with our money are using it to endanger future generations. They invest in harmful industries, and we enable them to do it.

Apart from the question of fossil fuels banks enable many ordinary people to do many things, like buy houses and run businesses and shop with convenience – I wonder how many protesters use cash and how many use plastic.

I witnessed many things on Thursday that disturbed me a lot. After getting together with our group to debrief afterwards, we started to piece together what happened, and the realisations that came from it.

The first is that many people are literally prepared to stand on top of other human beings to get to their money. The eagerness of some people to breach the obstacle of a human blockade was unnerving, and it shows just how fragile people feel when their daily routines are interrupted. I saw a businessman being encouraged to ‘take the path of least resistance’ over the top of the youngest and smallest member of my group. If we stop and think about that situation for a minute, it illuminates so much of what is wrong about our society.

That young people don’t think about how their actions may affect others and ony care about how actions affect themselves?

Secondly, many of us recalled how quickly violence became normalized. After a few customers had been encouraged by police to walk roughly over my group, I came to expect that behaviour. Since the action, I have been confronted with my own complicity when watching violence being done to others, and I am appalled that I was not firmer with customers and the police, that I didn’t do more to stop people from being hurt.

Like asking protesters to move so they wouldn’t impede the public?

My group started expecting to be walked over. Police told them it was their decision to remain put, and therefore their fault if they were trodden on.

Yes, it was their decision.

My group members said that they began to internalize that victim blaming, and started thinking “well, yes, I did put myself here- it’s my choice to be walked upon.” It’s only on reflection that we realized this was utter bullshit. Every human being deserves to be treated with respect.

Did the protesters respect the right of the bank and it’s staff to conduct their legal business? Did they respect the right of customers to do business with the bank?

Did they respect the right of people to not agree with and to disagree with their campaign to halt all fossil fuel use?

We put our trust in the police to protect us (as is their responsibility) and that trust was broken.

Except they wanted the police top forcibly move them becvause it suited their onjectives.

We put trust in customers to recognize what we were doing, and to treat us as people- and in many cases that trust was broken.

They can’t ‘trust’ people to agree with them.

Did they treat the public and the bank customers like people, or did they just see them as ‘collateral damage’?

Many people who were walked on are surprised at the level of emotional impact it has had. Many reported feeling both empowered and dehumanized. They knew that they were part of something really powerful, and really admirable. To act non-violently is incredibly brave, because you are putting trust in others that they will not hurt you- and that trust is not always rewarded. When someone is violent towards you it can shake your trust in humanity. Many of the group felt like they were treated as objects- obstacles to climb on.

Some may see them as ‘incredibly brave’, others may seem them as naive and inviting a physical reaction to a physical blockade.

As a group we’re all really aware of the toll these actions can take, and we’re getting really good at supporting and looking after each other. We have to. Because social change is not going to come easily.

There’s obvious sincerity, passion, and a real desire to make the world a better place.

Hoping to achieve social change by blockading a small city bank might be a bit unrealistic.

This action has impacted the participants quite deeply. Not only because of the emotional intensity, but because we got an insight into the ways that powerful institutions like the banks, the media, and the police work together to maintain the status quo and delegitimize direct actions.

There’s a presumption that their direct actions were legitimate protest in the first place.

I think they may be underestimating or hiding the rights and the will of the public here.

ANZ, the media and the police succeeded in turning public opinion against our action, and distracting everyone from what’s going on globally.

No. The protesters stuffed up.

Their obstructive actions turned the public against them. Outside their circle of protest I’m not sure that they would have had much support. Most public reaction has been negative towards them, and that’s not because of the police or the media or the bank.

It’s one thing to have a really rough time of it on the front lines; it’s another to be completely misrepresented by the media. The public backlash has been quite shocking. Comments range from being ‘disgusted’ with our behavior to suggesting that we get stomped on. 

I don’t condone suggestions like “stomped on” but adverse public reaction shouldn’t be a surprise.

The media orchestrated their story flawlessly, they took the one angle that would be sure to derail the conversation, cover up the real issue, and keep the real victims invisible.

A media conspiracy.

Protest 101 – work the media and don’t just expect them to automatically understand and agree with everything you are trying to do.

By ‘real victims’ I am not talking about us. I am talking about the billions of people that will suffer the effects of climate change. I’m talking about masses of lives that will face disease, displacement, conflict, and extreme weather events. Because these are the lives we should be talking about when we do actions like blockading a bank. It’s not about us, it’s not about our actions, it’s not about customers, the general public, or the police. It’s about the people who are suffering at the hands of powerful institutions. It’s about the future generations that have to deal with the fallout of the climate catastrophe.

I think that reducing fossil fuel reliance and reduction pollution as much as possible are important aims. Most of the public would agree with that.

But most of the public is probably realistic about the need to keep using fossil fuels for some time if we are to maintain a functioning society.

The ANZ is an Australian bank and the protest seems mostly directed at financing of the financing of fossil fuels in Australia.

Coal produces about two thirds of Australia’s  power. There is no easy way to replace that in a hurry. It would need to be phased out over a significant period of time.

Australia is the fifth largest coal producer in the world. Many people rely on the coal industry for work, including many New Zealanders. Shutting down the coal industry would have a major impact in many ways on employment and the economies of Australia and New Zealand.

Yes it would be good to be able to quickly replace coal with sustainable energies. But socially and economically it simply isn’t feasible.

The media successfully constructed a story that would keep climate victims invisible.

The media reported on what happened. The protesters failed to keep the focus on what they wanted publicised.

They told a story that focused on the shortcomings of our action instead of the monumental level of harm caused by the industries ANZ is supporting. The media distracted most people, even supporters, from the most pertinent moral questions raised by our protest.

By letting the media dictate our conversations about climate change and systemic violence, we give them power to maintain the status quo.

This system does not want to change. Institutions like the media and ANZ will do everything in their power to frame us as a threat to the public’s peace of mind. They will do everything in their power to keep the public from realizing just how harmful and insidious their agendas are.

If I could ask readers anything, it would be to publicly question and criticize the role of our banks in upholding climate violence. Don’t let them dictate the terms of the conversation, we have to make those with power accountable for the effects of their actions.

Perhaps they need to seriously reassess what might be effective publicity for their cause and what might be effective protest action. Blaming everyone else won’t help.

As far as our group is concerned, don’t worry about us. We’re taking care of each other. If Thursday taught me anything it’s how incredibly lucky I am to be part of such an amazing passionate group of people. We’ve all been shaken, many of our illusions have been shattered, but we’ve proven to ourselves just how brave and ambitious we are. We’ve built a trustworthy, supportive community. We’re getting stronger, we’re getting smarter, and we’re a force to be reckoned with.

If they learn from their mistakes last week then they may become a force to be reckoned with.

But if they want public support they need a cause that will resonate with the public, not alienate them.

If they want positive media coverage they might need to rethink their strategies.

Idealistic unrealistic protesters who see themselves as morally superior to everyone, and victims of everything that doesn’t work out for them, and see the public as collateral damage, have some challenges.

What to do with an unspent $1m?

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull say he is committed to keeping rates within a self imposed 3% limit – about three times the inflation rate and after increasing rates in previous years.

ODT reports:

…it was signalled that $700,000 worth of extra costs discovered by council staff would make it tougher for the council to stick within the 3% limit.

But then:

Council group chief financial officer Grant McKenzie said the $1 million allocated in last year’s annual plan towards installing lights at University Oval…

…would make it easier to get rates lower? No, this is Dunedin.

…could be spent on one-off projects in the 2016-17 year, after the project was dropped.


Mayor Dave Cull said having access to the funds was welcome and would allow the council to fund items the community indicated it wanted.

What about members of the community want escalating rates brought under control?

The spend mentality is one problem. So is Cull’s claim “the community indicated it wanted”? How does Cull know what “the community” want?

During feedback, submitters were positive about all areas of additional spending consulted on, Mr Cull said.

Did they choose more spending over reducing rates increases?

How many submitters? Some on the council have a habit of claiming that an active minority somehow represents everyone.

Like this today from Councillor Jinty McTavish:

It’s great to see Dunedinites calling for ANZ to follow the Council’s lead and divest from fossil fuels.

But ‘Dunedinites’ didn’t all feel the same way about the protest.

Stuff reports: Protesters blasted by passersby for blocking elderly customers from entering ANZ bank in Dunedin

More than 120 climate change protesters blocked entry to three ANZ bank branches in George Street.

Spokeswoman Niamh O’Flynn, of 350 Aotearoa, said the protest was targeting ANZ because the bank invested in, and supported, businesses that caused climate change through their activities.

Protest in a democracy. But obstructing people from going about their business isn’t as flash.


Does councillor McTavish think that is good Dunedinite behaviour?

One passerby berated the protesters who refused to budge for an elderly woman wanting to use the bank.

“Come on you . . . . let the old lady in,” he said.

“Get out of the bloody way. You are doing your cause no good.”

Customer Jennifer Lee said she needed to use the bank, “and I had no choice but to take off my shoes and climb over them”.

Perhaps they are some of the same submitters who urge the council to spend more of other people’s money.

I asked Jinty how many Dunedinites thought obstructing other Dunedinites was great but she hasn’t responded yet.