Wellingtonian Interview: Benjamin Easton

JOSEPH ROMANOS
Last updated 09:39 17/09/2012
Benjamin Easton
JOSEPH ROMANOS
Benjamin Easton: I've always been good with people, always cared about society.

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Benjamin Easton talks about his problems at school, why he has turned into a fulltime protester and which sports team he follows.

Are you a Wellingtonian?

I was born in Wellington, but spent a lot of my early years in Napier.

Did you enjoy school?

My last day at school was my first day at kindy. I was at school, but I never partook. I had good friends, but I didn't like the school. I started college at Colenso, then moved to Wellington and attended Wellington High School, but I didn't last long there either.

Did you have a particular career in mind when you were at college?

When I was in the third form [year 9] the form master asked us what we wanted to do. I said, seriously, that I wanted to be a lawyer, and he laughed at me.

Were you very academic?

No. I sat three subjects in School C, waited till the hour was up, then left.

So what did you do when you left school?

At 16 I worked as a storeman at Turners and Growers. I enjoyed that, but I attended a union meeting one day and got fired. I got jobs as a labourer and a social worker, had some time on the unemployment benefit and worked in the agriculture area for a while, tractor driving and so on. I worked at Sprott House in Karori and at Christ's Hospital in Auckland, and then I got into early childhood education.

Where was that?

I went to ATI [Aotearoa Tertiary Institute] for three years and did my qualifications there and taught at the creche. I helped establish the Princes St Childcare Centre in Auckland.

So this was obviously an area that interested you.

I've always been good with people, always cared about society. I was looking after my adopted sister and brother when they were babies.

Where did your career take you next?

I became a games designer. My first game was FreeMarket. I've designed about 30 games - board games and card games.

What sparked your current career as a protester?

My marriage broke up. I was advised to be wary, that I didn't want to come under a domestic protection order. My feeling was that as a father, I was not expendable, that I wanted to be able to spend equal time with my kids. In the end she got a protection order, and that cost me my rights with my kids.

When was this?

We split up in 1997 and it became terrible the way I was being treated as a father. On January 31, 2001, I resolved to challenge the situation in which fathers were disenfranchised. I sent an email out announcing my intentions. I had no idea what I was about to find.

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So that's what eventually led you into court taking action against the governor general over the Care of Children Act 2004?

Yes, the governor-general should never have given assent on that, but he did and it became law.

Your protest activities have widened. You've taken action against Radio New Zealand, the Human Rights Commission, the Bank of New Zealand, the New Zealand Fire Service and the Environment Court, among others. Have you merely become a habitual protester?

The media has tagged me a serial protester as if the targets of my protests aren't valid. But they are. Take the changes to Manners St. The city council is breaking its own regulations. The lane width is supposed to be 3.5 metres. It's not; it's 2.9 metres.

Since they did it, one woman has died and other people have been injured in accidents along this stretch of road. I've protested about this and it hasn't suited the council.

You've protested very vigorously with repeated court action. They want you declared a vexatious litigant.

It would be a nice way for them to make me disappear. Their problem is that I'm right, and they know it.

Where do you live?

I live in my truck, occupying outside the Court of Appeal.

You're 52. Don't you miss the comforts of life?

I do. My health is so-so. I get by by political busking, relying on public donations, and in the past four months I've started a business, Streeties. I charge $30 for a callout and people get the use of my truck. The business is building gradually through word of mouth.

What do you do for recreation - do you follow sport?

I like the Warriors. I switched from rugby when the Warriors got into the Australian competition.

Do you read much?

I have only read about 20 books, but at the moment I'm reading Constitutionalism and Resistance in the Sixteenth Century by Julian Franklin. It's given me strength and is very relaxing.

I see you often outside McDonald's in Manners St, writing chalk messages on the footpath. How are your views accepted by the public?

There's a mixed reaction. I get into some good arguments. Other people agree.

In the event that all your protest objectives have been met, what would you do?

I don't want to do this all my life. I have plans for afterwards. What I'd really like is to go back to games designing. My games are good. I just need the capital to get them out there. That's what I would like to do.

- The Wellingtonian

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