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Thousands of GCSB Bill protesters hit the streets

Published: 3:17PM Saturday July 27, 2013 Source: ONE News

Thousands of people took to the streets across the country today to protest over controversial new spying laws.

Organisers say the strong turnout shows there is still a huge level of concern over the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) bill, despite United Future MP Peter Dunne securing some changes to the original proposal.

Once passed into law, the bill would extend the powers of the GCSB to allow it to provide information for the New Zealand Police, Defence Force and the Security Intelligence Service.

Thousands turned out to protest in Wellington alone for the bill to be scrapped.

"Hey hey, ho ho, the GCSB legislation has got to go!" they chanted.

But rallies also took place in 11 separate towns and cities today, with protesters equally as vocal in Auckland.

Traffic was reduced to a standstill in the city centre as protesters, many waving picket signs and wearing masks, took to the streets.

But they have a battle on their hands as the Government has the numbers to pass the bill.

Mr Dunne has agreed to support it, securing a number of changes including an agreement to review the spy agency in 2015.

But for those gathered for the protests, that is not good enough.

"I think it should be dropped. I think the GCSB should have less spying capability on New Zealanders," said protester Pat Buckley.

Protesters in Wellington made their way to Parliament. While they have a strong message for the Government, the Prime Minister is overseas and, being a Saturday, it was unlikely any National MPs would be there.

And it seems 'the powers that be' also were not expecting such a large crowd, as protesters were able to climb over locked gates.

Among the protesters was David McDowell, who was the chief executive of the Office of Prime Minister and Cabinet between 1988 and 1992.

"From my knowledge of the [GCSB] system, already it is too intrusive. There is too much power concentrated in the hands of two people - the head of the GCSB and the Prime Minister," Mr McDowell said.

He believes New Zealanders' privacy will be compromised under the proposed law.

And he is not alone.

"I'm a nurse. I know about privacy, when we need privacy. We don't need this sort of privacy, it's terrible," said protester Paula Wyatt.

And while the bill remains on track to become law, those who gathered at the protests are vowing to do all they can to stop it.