Destiny Church last night vowed its “Defend the Legacy” march, expected to draw 20,000 followers, would cross the Auckland Harbour Bridge despite its application being declined by police and Transit New Zealand.
“We did not launch this event lightly and have no intention of cancelling it,” Defend the Legacy spokesman Pastor Andrew Stock said.
The March 5 event was launched following the Government’s passing of the Civil Union Bill last year.
The date had been selected following consultation with Auckland City Council to provide minimal inconvenience to the public and city infrastructure, he said.
Civic authorities had three months’ notice to help facilitate the march.
“We have done everything within our power to do things right by the authorities,” Mr Stock said in a statement.
“The issues we are marching for are close to the heart of many New Zealanders who uphold traditional family values and respect the institution of marriage.”
Destiny followers had “every right” to march in a peaceful and respectful manner” Mr Stock said.
The event was gathering momentum and recently gained the support of 20 South Auckland Pacific Island churches whose members would march alongside church members from around the country.
Last year’s hikoi in protest to the Foreshore and Seabed Bill had been facilitated by authorities at short notice and without the level of consultation Destiny Church had undertaken, he said.
However, the officer in charge of Auckland motorways, Inspector Dave Walker, said yesterday police had facilitated the hikoi last April as a matter of “keeping the peace” in order to avoid an invasion of the carriageway.
“This was done after discussions with Transit engineering staff and other experts, keeping in mind that hikoi numbers were only about 10 per cent of the numbers proposed by Destiny.”
Transit had raised safety concerns when the hikoi crossed the bridge last April because the compounding effect of many feet hitting the road surface at the same time can cause bridges to collapse.
The army has long been aware of the potential for damage and always orders its soldiers to “break step” when marching over a bridge.
The march was scheduled for a Saturday when 160,000 vehicles crossed the bridge throughout the day and peak weekend traffic flowed from 9am to 5pm, Mr Walker said.
It would be a “nightmare” for Auckland’s motorway network and cause “certain gridlock” if 20,000 people crossed the bridge, he said.
“There are massive logistical problems with assembling such a group and the impact on the rest of the community and road users has to be considered.”
The bridge was not designed for pedestrian use and there was potential for structural impact, he said.
“A march such as this attracts people who just want to walk on the bridge, so it is difficult to control numbers which then becomes a safety and structural issue.”
Transit had declined other events using the bridge, including a fun run involving 5000 people, Mr Walker said.
Police did not expect Destiny Church followers to put their lives and the lives of others at risk by unauthorised walking over the bridge and there was time for march organisers to develop an alternative route, Mr Walker said.