Police in stalemate with building protester

02:54, May 23 2012
Benjamin Easton, bottom, talks with a police officer.

Police are locked in a stalemate with a protester who has barricaded himself inside a vacant Wellington apartment block and is refusing to leave.

Benjamin Easton, who took part in the Occupy Wellington protest, shut himself into the fifth floor flat in the Housing New Zealand owned Gordon Wilson complex on The Terrace last night.

Housing NZ issued the block's 131 residents with seven-day notices to vacate on May 10 after engineers raised urgent safety concerns about the building.

A Housing NZ spokeswoman said Easton was not a Housing New Zealand tenant and was trespassing.  

''His actions are putting himself, Housing New Zealand staff and police at risk. We are working with the police to resolve the situation and will not be making any further comment,'' she said.

Senior Sergeant Steve Dearns said police safety would not be risked in a ''forcible extraction'' and that Easton had been ''fairly informed'' of the risks of staying in the vacant complex.

''He's clearly indicated he's not coming out willingly.We're better off backing off at this stage. We're at a stalemate,'' he said.

Easton said tenants had been transported like ''animals'' and the relocation notices had caused significant stress to many tenants.

He was demanding ''basic compensation'' to all residents forced out of the building and also wanted Housing NZ to pay reasonable relocation costs.

Easton has been involved in sevaral protests around Wellington, including against the bus route put through Manners Mall.

A report on the building found slabs of its concrete exterior could fall and crush people in an earthquake or strong wind.


The Dominion Post