Protesters prove hard to shift

NICCI MCDOUGALL AND WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 05:00 10/11/2011
Occupy Invercargill
NICOLE GOURLEY/ Fairfax NZ

STAYING PUT: Occupy Invercargill members, from left, Andrew Stevens, Paul Olson, Andrew McGurk and Vincent Mackerth work on a new shelter in the Gala St Reserve.

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Occupy protesters are proving tough to shift, with both the Invercargill and Dunedin city councils appearing powerless to shift them.

Invercargill City Council has given Occupy Invercargill protesters a $345 bill for camping in the Gala St reserve. They are refusing to pay.

In Dunedin, police have refused to endorse a council trespass notice for the protesters in the city's Octagon reserve.

Protesters say they are highlighting the world's problem of global greed, which started with Occupy Wall Street in the United States and spread worldwide.

Occupy Invercargill member Andrew Stevens said one of the reasons the group was protesting was their rights were being abused.

"We have our right to protest and making us pay, that would abuse that right ... We're definitely not going to pay it ... Where has freedom of speech gone if that's the case?" he said.

Invercargill City Council chief executive Richard King said yesterday the city protesters were in breach of the council's bylaws by camping on the reserve, but the council had yet to decide what it would do next, even though the bill was now overdue.

It was unlikely the council would issue a trespass notice, given police were not enforcing a similar notice in Dunedin.

The reserve was often used for carnival workers to camp, but there had to be an agreement with the council, he said.

"There's no such thing as a free lunch and we can't treat them any differently," he said.

The council would make a decision by the end of this week on its next step, he said.Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said the country was waiting to see how his administration would handle the occupation.

He was annoyed police would not enforce the trespass notice issued two weeks ago.

Dunedin-Clutha area police commander Greg Sparrow said police did not believe the notice met the test of balancing the rights and freedoms of all parties.

Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule said the council was being consistent. People were not able to camp in council reserves without payment.

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