WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A New Zealand man whose 14-year-old son was killed in a deadly Christchurch earthquake pleaded guilty Tuesday to assaulting the lawmaker responsible for quake recovery efforts after throwing goop at him.
John Howland, 41, told reporters he'd thrown the mix of chocolate, vinegar and other ingredients at Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee because he was angry at the government for not taking better care of victims' families. He faces a maximum penalty of one year in jail.
Howland threw the mix at the end of a service attended by hundreds of people to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the magnitude-6.1 quake that killed 185 people on Feb 22, 2011.
Howland's son Jayden Andrews-Howland died in the quake when rubble fell on the bus he was in.
Brownlee has proved a polarizing figure in the rebuilding of Christchurch. Many people frustrated at delays in collecting insurance or at the slow pace of the downtown reconstruction have blamed him, while others have praised his forthright style.
Brownlee's spokesman, Nick Bryant, said the lawmaker didn't wish to comment on the incident because it had become a legal matter.
It's the second time this month that somebody has thrown something at a New Zealand lawmaker. On Feb. 6, a woman threw a pink toy penis at Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce to protest an international free trade deal.
Earlier during Monday's memorial service, speakers made the point that while there had been big progress since the quake, there was much left to be done.
"There is still some way to go until Christchurch is truly reborn," said Governor-General Jerry Mateparae.
Speakers also mentioned the disquiet they felt when the region was rattled again last week by an earthquake, one of the strongest since 2011. Last week's quake knocked items from shelves and triggered rock falls, but didn't cause major damage.
Emergency responders and officials representing more than a dozen foreign nations were among those who read out the names of each of the victims who died in the quake.
Mateparae said it changed the region forever.
"We recall the ordered streets and gracious buildings of a city renowned for its style and substance," he said. "We recall how, in an instant, that physical landscape was shattered. We recall how dust and the sound of sirens filled the air."