Tide turns against windscreen washers

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 18/01/2014
Craig Huffam
SAM SCANNELL/FAIRFAX NZ

BATTERED AND BRUISED: Craig Huffam is sporting a black eye after being allegedly attacked by two windscreen washers on Thursday night.

Driver assaulted

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Craig Huffam had no problems with squeegee bandits before Thursday night.

But after being allegedly attacked by two of the windscreen washers in central New Plymouth and suffering a black eye and split eyebrow, he has changed his mind.

"If they were providing something for people and were happy and safe, no problems. But I have no time for them any more."

That they flipped out because he did not want them to wash his window was pretty sad, he said.

While Mr Huffam was being inundated with support yesterday, it was business as usual for one of the alleged offenders, who was back on his patch at the corner of Eliot and Leach streets.

But he was getting a bit of "attitude" from drivers, he said.

"Everyone has been taking it to me a bit. But I don't mind, I get it every day."

He said he was the "most respectful, the most kindest" but he did admit to having a short fuse.

The confrontations came from both sides, he said.

But if a "girl" had a go at him, he did not do anything.

"Girls have a go at you all the time."

When told people had complained, saying the windscreen washers hurled abuse at mothers with children in the car, he said it was not him and named the offenders.

"We're the good ones out there."

On his best day he earned $260 in about four hours.

It was better than sitting on the couch doing nothing, he said.

"You meet people, get personal skills, communication skills."

On Thursday night the 17-year-old was charged with common assault, assaulting police, and resisting arrest. His 15-year-old mate was charged with disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence and will be referred to youth aid.

Businesses in the vicinity of the window washers had had enough, Caltex service station manager Tina Gardiner-Williams said.

"We're over it. The abuse, the mess, the attitude, the cursing.

"They help themselves to our water, which we pay for."

She now trespasses any of them who come on to the forecourt.

And turf wars caused lots of fights, she said.

It has been suggested the New Plymouth District Council should legislate against the window washers.

Customer and regulatory services manager Mary-Anne Priest said the council researched the examples of other councils that had introduced a bylaw.

And while a bylaw would send a clear message to the community that the window washing activity was not wanted in the district, it would not provide the council with any more power than it already had under other acts, she said.

"People who wash windscreens at intersections are in breach of the Road User Rule, which prohibits people from loitering on the road.

"There is also a fine of up to $1000 for anyone who is prosecuted for offensive, disorderly or threatening behaviour, and people can be arrested for these offences."

A bylaw would enhance the council's ability to take people to court for breaching the bylaw, she said.

"It's not so much about the activity of window washing, it's the behaviour of the window washers," she said. "The best thing to do is to stop paying them."

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And stop paying them was the message from the police, Senior Sergeant Thomas McIntyre said.

"If there is no income, there is no incentive for them to do it and they will go away."

But New Plymouth district councillor Murray Chong disagreed, saying some people were always going to pay them.

"Americarna is coming up and we're going to have a very, very busy weekend, and they will not want foreign soap on their cars.

"They are $100,000 cars, and they use special waxes and they don't want some idiot squirting dirty soap water on their cars."

Fellow councillor and former police officer Grant Coward will attend a meeting next week with council staff to discuss the issue.

"I think they are a public nuisance and they need to be stopped.

"But the issue of stopping them is more complex than a bylaw or prosecutions or the like."

Police area commander Blair Telford wants the public to speak up if they see any problems occurring.

"If window washers approach your car, or you see them loitering on the road or causing a hazard on the road, or you experience them acting in a way that is offensive or intimidating, please call us straight away on 759 5500."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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