Weddings, picnics and concerts in council's sights

Wellington couples planning to venture outside for their nuptials may need to bust out their wallets.

Weddings are among activities being targeted in a crackdown on free use of public space that will also target concerts, company picnics, boot camps and tour groups.

Yesterday, Wellington City Council's environment committee agreed to gauge public opinion on a move to start charging people $100 for permits to hold events, such as weddings and company picnics in parks, beaches and reserves.

Such events with more than about 30 people in attendance already require permits, but there has been no charge up till now, except at the Botanic Gardens.

The change would bring the city's public spaces in line with the gardens and was aimed at recovering the council's costs from issuing permits and ensuring health and safety hazards were managed.

But despite voting to consult on it, councillors questioned whether it was actually necessary, particularly given the move was expected to recover less than $10,000 a year.

Councillor Andy Foster questioned whether the council should first work out the problem's size.

"Then work out how big the sledge hammer is to crush the very small nut, I suspect."

Under the proposal, which would be included in the council's trading in public places policy, commercial and private functions such as company picnics, weddings and concerts would require a $100 application fee to process the necessary permit.

Fitness boot camps held in parks and on beaches would also be regulated by a code of conduct and tour group leaders who take tourists through public parks and reserves would require a licence.

A report to councillors explained that the purpose was to reduce "negative public reaction to the activities interfering with enjoyment of casual use". Open spaces and parks manager Amber Bill said it was quite common for councils to have concession policies, but Wellington City Council had decided to incorporate it into an existing policy rather than create a new one.

The idea was to make sure everyone got fair use by establishing a user-pays system for public space.

"At the moment we're doing that on the ratepayers . . . the revenue is very little and low because it's not a revenue-gathering exercise."

They did not have many requests for wedding permits - possibly because of the weather, she said.

The boot camp move was a reflection of the proliferation of fitness classes, and some steady complaints about people not being able to walk through public places.

Wedding celebrant Pinky Agnew labelled the plan a "real shame".

In summer months, most weddings she officiated at had a "plan A" of being held outside in public spaces.

But the weather often meant "plan B" was called on.

While $100 was not a lot in most wedding budgets, it would cost a lot in goodwill, she said.

"It's just annoying. It just makes the council look like money-grubbing fools and not even for very much money.

"They should be throwing open their parks and their beaches for people to marry in.

"It's like an ad for Wellington, the videos, the photographs go all around the world."

Bootcamps Wellington owner James Stewart holds sessions in Frank Kitts Park at 6am and 5.30pm.

He had never heard of complaints.

But he said regulations were not a bad thing if they helped get rid of "cowboys" and were about using common sense.

However, the council should be doing all it could to encourage fitness by having dedicated areas with some equipment, such as pull-up bars, he said.



What are public spaces?

The council's policy will cover public areas managed by the Wellington City Council, including parks, reserves, the Town Belt, the Outer Green Belt and beaches. 

The Dominion Post