New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has condemned a physical attack on Climate Change Minister James Shaw, saying the accessibility of politicians in her country ought not to be taken for granted.
- Mr Shaw, the Green Party leader, suffered a black eye in the attack
- Police have charged a 47-year old man, who was to appear in court on Friday
- The Prime Minister is the only New Zealand politician with a security team
Mr Shaw, the Green Party leader, was walking alone to the Parliament in Wellington on Thursday when a man approached him and punched him in the face, police said.
Two people came to help the minister but the man quickly jumped into a vehicle and drove away, they said.
Mr Shaw went straight to work after the incident, despite getting a black eye, before visiting a hospital later as a precautionary measure.
It was not clear if the attack was politically motivated.
Police said a 47-year-old man was later arrested and charged over the attack, and he is expected to appear in court on Friday.
‘Rare’ attack leaves politicians shocked
Ms Ardern condemned the attack, which she said was “unprovoked”.
“We have an environment in New Zealand where politicians are accessible — and that’s something we should feel proud of,” she said.
“But today’s events really show we cannot take that for granted.”
Politicians and New Zealanders were shocked by the incident, a rare attack in a country where politicians mingle freely with the public with no security cover.
James Shaw tweet
The Prime Minister is the only New Zealand politician given a security team, while other ministers and top officials walk freely and are often seen mixing with the public.
Wellington mayor Justin Lester said it was “a sad day for democracy”.
“Elected representatives of all hues show courage to represent New Zealanders and we are lucky to have unparalleled access to them,” he said.
Attacks on politicians in New Zealand are almost unheard of.
The only recent similar instance was in 2016, when a protester threw a sex toy at Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce’s face during a news conference.