Last month civil liberties leaders Billy Te Kahika Jnr and Vinny Eastwood were found guilty in a judge-alone trial of breaching lockdown regulations by organising a public protest.

The protest, in August 2021, was held outside legacy media and state broadcaster TVNZ’s central Auckland office on the first day of the nationwide lockdown. The lockdown was ordered by Cabinet following confirmation of one case of the Delta variant in the community.

In a video posted to YouTube this week, Te Kahika appealed for support for the ‘Justice for Billy TK and Vinny Eastwood’ campaign, a petition on The petition is seeking the dismissal of the charges, and for the sentences to be overturned. Te Kahika was sentenced to four months imprisonment, while Eastwood received three months.

The pair are currently on bail, pending an appeal against the convictions and sentences.

Earlier this week the High Court allowed an appeal against one of the bail conditions imposed by trial judge Peter Winter. That condition – prohibiting both men from accessing the internet for the purposes of discussing their sentencing or the appeal on social media, was a breach of their right to freedom of expression contained in the Bill of Rights Act. The Crown did not oppose the application.

It was now accepted by many experts that lockdowns cause more harm than good, said Te Kahika, citing a recent report by Johns Hopkins University which stated they ‘offered no benefit and should be rejected outright.’

Te Kahika recounted the tragic case of a 14-year-old girl from his local community who took her own life due to lockdown anxiety.

The protest was ‘a victimless crime’. There was no public disorder. No attendee tested positive for COVID.


Te Kahika believed the government may target him in prison.

‘I believe if the New Zealand government imprison me, that my safety may be in jeopardy. My trust is in the Lord, but I also understand, mostly assessed by the behaviour of this government, and ones just like it that have existed beforehand, that they like to punish people like me once they get us into prison, and in extreme cases, cause us harm, and even silence us for good.

‘My fear is that the government would allow someone to harm me or perpetrate harm against me, either to hurt me, or to silence me forever. I do not say this to be dramatic, or to over-emphasise or stretch a point. My concerns are based on the behaviour I’ve seen of this government, which has been brutal.’

Te Kahika, a Christian pastor with no previous convictions, said the trial judge had received a significant number of character references in support of him. He had an extensive record of service to the community, and country, as a former member of the New Zealand Army, the police, and the Volunteer Fire Brigade Service (as a support person). He is a former White Ribbon campaign ambassador, a youth advocate, a road safety advocate, and has been part of ‘many campaigns designed at making New Zealand a better place to live in.’

A pre-sentence report said Te Kahika represented no threat to the public, had no risk of re-offending, required no rehabilitation, was a good person and ‘had a beautiful family.’

Despite this the trial judge imposed the harshest sentence for breach of COVID regulations in New Zealand’s history, said Te Kahika.

The petition can be signed here.

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