KEY POINTS

  • Anti-vaccine protesters in New Zealand chased and blocked Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's van last week
  • Ardern said "at no point" during the incident was she worried about her safety
  • New Zealand police are still investigating the incident

Authorities in New Zealand have launched an investigation after anti-vaccine protesters blocked and chased New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's van.

Footage of the incident showed some of the protesters shouting phrases such as "shame on you" and "we do not consent" at the Mercedes V-Class sedan carrying Ardern while the vehicle passed along the Paihia waterfront in the Bay of Islands, News.com.au reported.

Other protesters claimed Ardern was "hiding" in the back of the seven-seater vehicle and described her as a "wussy" and "a Nazi," among other obscenities, according to the outlet.

As the group pursued Ardern's vehicle, one protester was heard saying, "Oh, this is fun, we're on a chase," while another said he wanted "a few words" with the official.

"We're in pursuit [of] the prime minister," the protesters said as they followed Ardern's van.

The government van was later forced to take evasive action through a footpath after a protester's car cut it off, according to 1News.

When asked about the encounter Tuesday, Ardern described the whole ordeal as "just another day."

"At no point was I worried about my safety or the safety of anyone that was with me," Ardern said.

"Every day is faced with new and different experiences in this job … We are in an environment at the moment that does have an intensity to it that is unusual for New Zealand. I do also believe that with time it will pass," the official added.

Northland Police are still investigating the incident, which came amid a rise in threats against politicians and public figures involved in New Zealand's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities received an average of five complaints about threats toward politicians every month in 2021, with the number going all the way up to 16 in some months, according to data provided to 1News under the Official Information Act. Most of the threats were reportedly aimed at Ardern.

Additionally, the number of threats toward New Zealand's parliament members also reached a three-year high in one month last year.

Complaints included threats to injure, harm and assassinate politicians, police said. One person even threatened to send a bomb to parliament.

Being subjected to these threats was part of the job, according to Ardern.

"I see that as just being a reflection of the fact that we are the decision makers. And if people don’t like the decisions that are being made, then it’s us that of course will hear the feedback about that," the prime minister said.

New Zealand announced Sunday that new lockdown restrictions would be imposed after nine cases of COVID-19's omicron variant were reported in the country, which prompted Ardern to cancel her wedding.

The nation has reported a total of 15,466 confirmed coronavirus cases and 52 deaths, according to government data.

Around 3,917,585 New Zealand residents, or 93% of the population who are aged 12 and over, are fully vaccinated.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her fiance Clarke Gayford had to cancel their wedding after she tightened Covid-19 restrictions New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her fiance Clarke Gayford had to cancel their wedding after she tightened Covid-19 restrictions Photo: AFP / MICHAEL BRADLEY