Some countries might send in a riot squad to disperse coronavirus vaccine protesters. In New Zealand, authorities turned on water sprinklers and blasted out Barry Manilow records.

Initial moves to try and flush out several hundred protesters who have been camped on the parliament’s grounds in Wellington since Tuesday had little effect.

The protesters, who have been voicing their opposition to coronavirus vaccine requirements, responded to the soaking from the sprinklers by digging trenches and installing makeshift drainpipes to divert the water.

New Zealand protesters
Protesters stand in wet conditions as the sprinklers are turned on (NZME via AP)

When a downpour struck on Saturday, their numbers only grew. Protesters brought in bales of straw, which they scattered on the increasingly sodden grounds at parliament.

Some shouted, others danced and one group performed an indigenous Maori haka.

By evening, parliament speaker Trevor Mallard had come up with a new plan to make the protesters uncomfortable: using a sound system to blast out vaccine messages, Barry Manilow songs and the 1990s hit Macarena on a repeat loop.

Protesters responded by playing their own tunes, including Twister Sister’s We’re Not Gonna Take It.

The protest began when a convoy of trucks and cars drove to parliament from around the nation, inspired by similar demonstrations in Canada.

Parliament protesters
Several hundred protesters who have been camped on parliament grounds since Tuesday (NZ Herald via AP)

At first there were more than 1,000 protesters but that number dwindled as the week wore on before growing again on Saturday.

Police have been taking a more hands-off approach since Thursday, when they arrested 122 people and charged many of them with trespassing or obstruction.

Officers who have been wearing protective vests but have not been using riot gear or carrying guns, had tried to slowly advance on the protesters.

That tactic resulted in a number of physical confrontations. A video of two female officers briefly dragging a naked woman by her hair from a scuffle went viral.

In a response to questions from The Associated Press, New Zealand police said they did not remove the woman’s clothing as some people had claimed online, and that she had been naked for “some time” before her arrest.

New Zealand protesters
The protest began when a convoy of trucks and cars drove to Parliament from around the nation, inspired by protests in Canada (NZME via AP)

Police also said the images and videos did not provide the full context of the protest activity or the situation that police faced.

However, the scuffles seemed to prompt a strategic rethink by police, who appeared more content to wait it out as the week wore on.

By Friday, Mr Mallard had seen enough and told staff to turn on the sprinklers overnight.

“I ordered them on,” he confirmed to the AP.

“No-one who is here is here legally, and if they’re getting wet from below as well as above, they’re likely to be a little bit less comfortable and more likely to go home,” Mr Mallard said, according to news organisation Stuff.

“Some people have suggested we add the vaccine in the water, but I don’t think it works that way,” he joked.

Parliament protesters
The deterrents have not phased demonstrators (NZME via AP)

Mr Mallard told media he was also responsible for the sound system loop.

Some of the protesters’ vehicles have remained parked in the middle of roads around parliament, forcing some street closures.

The National Library and many cafes and bars in the area have closed their doors while the protest plays out.

Police said one protester suffered a medical event on Friday evening and an ambulance was unable to reach him because of the vehicles blocking the streets, resulting in a delay before he was treated.

Among the protesters’ grievances is the requirement in New Zealand that certain workers get vaccinated against Covid-19, including teachers, doctors, nurses, police and military personnel.

Many protesters also oppose mask mandates – such as those in shops and among children over the age of eight in classrooms – and champion the ideal of more “freedom”.

Parliament’s grounds have often been the site of peaceful protests, although mass campouts are unusual.

New Zealand protests
Demonstrators are aggrieved that certain workers are required to be vaccinated (NZME via AP)

New Zealand was spared the worst of the pandemic after it closed its borders and implemented strict lockdowns, limiting the spread of the virus. The nation has reported just 53 virus deaths among its population of five million.

But some have grown weary of the restrictions.

Prime minister Jacinda Ardern last week said the country would end its quarantine requirements for incoming travellers in stages as it reopened its borders.

With about 77% of New Zealanders vaccinated, Ms Ardern has also promised she will not impose more lockdowns.

An outbreak of the Omicron variant has been growing, with New Zealand reporting a record 454 new community cases Saturday, but none of the 27 people taken to hospital during the outbreak needed to be in intensive care beds.