Special camping permit being considered for Hone

Nelson protester Lewis Stanton might be issued a special permit to stay overnight in Nelson reserves in an attempt to move him on from his central city spot.

The Nelson City Council is considering the special action, which could include amending or introducing a new bylaw to accommodate Mr Stanton, after police told them they were unable to charge the long-time protester as he was not breaking any law or bylaw.

Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio said yesterday staff had been asked to write a report looking at the options of giving Mr Stanton, who is also known as Hone Ma Heke, a licence to camp overnight on council land provided he met certain conditions.

Those conditions could include the stipulation that he pick up his horse's dung, only use a brazier as an open fire and not camp anywhere for longer than three days.

The council would discuss the report and make a decision on the issue at its next meeting, he said.

At his Trafalgar St protest spot this morning, Mr Stanton welcomed the council's idea of a permit or bylaw allowing him his freedom to move.

"Those things were the things I was already doing anyway. For the council to finally actually wake up to that fact is a huge achievement."

He said if that sort of special permit was issued he would stop protesting in Trafalgar St.

For the past 17 months he has staged a one-man protest against the council which confiscated his horse and cart after he kept illegally camping in council parks and reserves.

The council has repeatedly offered to return Mr Stanton's horse and cart if he agreed not to camp on council land overnight. Mr Stanton refused this offer, saying it breached his civil rights.

Mr Miccio said yesterday the council had heard from the police legal section in Christchurch late last week that it was unable to charge Mr Stanton with blocking the footpath.

Mr Stanton was not camping overnight so his protest differed from the other protests where protesters had been removed from central city occupations.

The police said they would be unable to enforce the begging bylaw, and this would not solve the problem anyway as while police could remove Mr Stanton's signs and begging hat, he could just come back the next day.

A delegation of business owners fed up with Mr Stanton's presence on the city's main street took their concerns to councillors yesterday.

Trafalgar St business owners Bob Toepfer of Hanafins, jeweller Glen James and landlord Gaire Thompson told councillors they wanted Mr Stanton removed from Trafalgar St.

The trio also made it clear to councillors they did not think Mr Stanton should be given any special rights to camp overnight in council reserves.

Mr Toepfer said business owners were extremely concerned about Mr Stanton's ongoing occupation of the main street and it was affecting business.

"He says he's being a protester. I don't believe it," Mr Toepfer said.

"He's embraced self-employment. He has even worked out he gets $3 an hour. He's looking at it as a job and there's no reason for him to move ... He's become the face of Nelson."

This morning Mr Toepfer reiterated that while retailers wanted the situation solved they did not want Mr Stanton to get special treatment.

"None of us would argue that he's got his lifestyle he wants to live and that's his right, but it's got to be within the rules of society."

Mr James asked why there was a rule for businesses that Mr Stanton did not seem to have to abide by.

Mr Thompson said it was a clear case of double standards and PC rubbish.

Business people would get told to move a sandwich board on the street, or be prosecuted, if it did not comply with a council bylaw.

The Nelson Mail