Council confounded by Stanton's return

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 21/11/2012
Hone Ma Heke
MARION VAN DIJK/FAIRFAX NZ
FLOUTING THE COUNCIL: : Hone Ma Heke giving rides to members of the public in Trafalgar St, Nelson to help feed his horse, Barney.

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A court injunction preventing Nelson vagrant Lewis Stanton from the Tahunanui Reserve will be served this week if he is seen there, the Nelson City Council says.

The Nelson beggar, also known as Hone Ma Heke, and his horse, Barney, were seen in the city again yesterday after narrowly avoiding another trespass order. The council has been trying to resolve where he can stay.

Marsden Valley resident Craig Gass, incensed that Mr Stanton was defecating in a creek near where he was permitted to camp in the valley, told the council yesterday it needed to "harden up".

Mr Gass also said Mr Stanton's presence had attracted others to camp in the area in tents and cars.

"This is an area where there is no camping and no fires. Short-term, I don't have a problem with this, but long-term, I do."

He said he had seen Mr Stanton defecating in the creek and throwing waste into it.

"He has to be made to comply, because at the moment he's just giving you the bird."

He questioned how the council could implement its freedom camping bylaw if it could not address the issues around Mr Stanton.

Mr Stanton was instructed to use the toilets at the Marsden Valley cemetery, 700 metres from where he was camping.

Council executive manager of network services Alec Louverdis said he was about to trespass Mr Stanton from the Marsden Valley reserve this week, but Mr Stanton left the site before the order was given. He has now waived any right to return to camp there.

Mr Stanton has shunned attempts by the council to try to find a middle ground that acknowledges public angst at his behaviour, while trying to accommodate his lifestyle preference.

In response to a question from councillor Kate Fulton about what the council could do, Mr Gass said it needed to persist.

"Pick him up with his horse and cart and take him to Somes Island," he suggested.

Councillor Mike Ward said the problem was that the council was dealing with a person who did not care about consequences.

He said the matter had been very hard on council staff, and very time-consuming.

Councillor Pete Rainey described Mr Stanton as a "very special case, who unfortunately had chosen to live in Nelson".

Councillor Paul Matheson suggested moulding Mr Stanton into a sculpture and "sticking him where he could welcome people to Nelson".

The council is looking at issuing Mr Stanton with a special permit to camp for short periods at Branford Park, the Queen Elizabeth II Dr mounds (adjacent to the Founders Heritage Park boundary), Guppy Park and Pioneers Park, but after consulting the public and businesses, it doubts that these will be palatable options.

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Until recently, Mr Stanton spent more than 18 months protesting against the council in Trafalgar St. He started his protest after being arrested for repeatedly breaching council bylaws by camping overnight on council land.

This was after the council imposed a blanket trespass order on Mr Stanton, in an attempt to stop him entering most of the public reserves in the city, but the order was thrown out in court.

The council looked after his horse and cart, and on numerous occasions offered to return them if Mr Stanton agreed not to camp overnight on council land. Mr Stanton refused the offer, saying it breached his human rights.

The standoff was resolved, and he got his horse and cart back.

Until this week, Mr Stanton had been camping in Marsden Valley. During that time, he was seen at Tahunanui Beach offering people rides in his horse and cart for koha.

This upset tourism business operator Hugh Briggs, who also voiced his protest at yesterday's council meeting about why Mr Stanton was able to offer rides at the Tahunanui Reserve without the necessary approval required by other operators.

"I'm happy for him to operate there, but he has to learn to take responsibility the same way as other commercial operators," Mr Briggs said. He said what Mr Stanton was doing was unsafe.

Mr Louverdis said he had written to the Labour Department expressing concern, but the department would not look at the matter because it was not considered work-related.

The council said Mr Stanton needed a permit and a concession to operate rides at Tahunanui because of public liability and indemnity issues, but Mr Stanton had indicated that he had no intention of applying for either.

- Nelson

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