Wellington council rethinks after ‘genocide denial’ accusation

genocide denial

The Wellington City Council is rethinking its policy after being slammed as “complicit in genocide denial”.

The accusation against the Council followed its decision to grant police the power to arrest Anzac Day protesters.

The issue came to light on Anzac Day last year.

Richard Noble arrived at a service at Wellington’s Pukeahu War Memorial Park holding a “recognise Armenian Genocide” banner. The war memorial is owned by the central government and no action was taken against him.

It was a different matter later that day when he took his banner to the Ataturk Turkish memorial. The memorial is situated on Council land above Wellington’s south coast.

A police officer warned Noble he would be arrested if he displayed his banner there.

Between 664,000 and 1.2 million Armenian people were killed by the Ottoman – now Turkish – government between 1915 and 1916.

Their killing is recognised as genocide by 32 countries including the United States, Canada, France, Germany and Russia. New Zealand does not officially recognise it as genocide.

Police authority

Police had been granted the authority arrest by Council chief executive Barbara McKerrow.

She wrote to the police just before Anzac Day 2021, giving them long-term permission to trespass people from council land at the Cenotaph and Ataturk Memorial Park on Anzac days.

She stressed police must not breach the Human Rights Act and act reasonably.


Genocide is defined by the United Nations as defined acts, including killing, “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.

Last Thursday, Noble told the Council’s Social, Cultural and Economic Committee that the permission to arrest protesters made the council “complicit in genocide denial.

“It is your authorisation, it is on your watch,” he said.

Just hours later, an emailed statement from the council said it was liaising with the police about whether “any trespass delegation is appropriate and required”.

The council says it supports people’s rights to public protest as defined under the Bill of Rights.

All councillors were asked if the police authorisation should be altered.

“I strongly oppose this delegation given by council to police,” Cr Iona Pannett says. “The right to peaceful protest against gross human rights is sacrosanct in our society and so should be rescinded.”

Cr Ray Chung agrees: “I’m a very strong believer in the freedom of speech and as long as no damage is done and they’re not inciting violence … I’m fine with him being allowed to continue his protest without impediment.”

Tim Brown, a paid member of the Free Speech Union, quoted: “I [may] disapprove of what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says it’s important “historical injustices” like the Ottoman treatment of Armenian people were “acknowledged appropriately”.

It supported “reconciliation” between Turkey and Armenia.

“For determining whether a particular situation constitutes genocide, Aotearoa New Zealand places great emphasis on the findings of international courts and tribunals.”


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