Fears over 'Camp Stanton' accelerate permit to protest bylaw in Nelson
An increase in the number of people sleeping on Nelson's main street has sparked safety fears and a move to accelerate a bylaw banning the practice.
In recent weeks long-term protester Lewis Stanton has been joined by up to three others sleeping in Trafalgar St, including a 52-year-old woman. Their bedding and other possessions now cover the whole frontage of the Farmers store, prompting the building owner to dub the site "Camp Stanton."
The Nelson City Council said it had received a number of complaints about the unkempt look and potential safety risks from the growing campsite.
Mayor Rachel Reese said the council was becoming increasingly concerned about the escalating situation that affected retailers and the public.
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"Nelson people's tolerance is being tested. People should not be in a situation where they are concerned about their safety. Cumulatively, it's more visible and more intrusive."
The council introduced an urban amenity bylaw this year. Among its proposals are to ban sleeping in the central business district, require permits for protests and restrict materials that can be put on the footpath.
After submissions were heard in June, the council was set to deliberate on September 5, but Reese is trying to bring that forward to this month.
She said the Nelson was an inclusive community but repeated attempts to resolve Stanton's issues had not been accepted.
"We are at the point where an individual or group of individuals' stance and actions are having such an impact on what should be a reasonable expectation of the use and enjoyment of our public spaces."
Reese said she was working closely with police and had contacted the Minsitry of Social Development and Nelson Marlborough Health to ensure those sleeping on Trafalgar St had access to appropriate support.
Landlord Gaire Thompson, whose company owns the Farmers building, said the increased number of people sleeping on the footpath was "appalling", and had drawn drunks and other anti-social behaviour to the area.
"I call it Camp Stanton. We want some people to take action including the council and the police who are pussyfooting around Stanton."
Thompson said with New Zealand's welfare system and support agencies there was no need for people to sleep on Trafalgar St.
He said Stanton's case was not an issue of homelessness, but of choice.
"They talk about individual rights, but they forget about the rights of the majority that are impinged on," Thompson said.
Stanton, also known as Hone Ma Heke, said the increased number of people joining him showed that the country's social policies had failed and people were falling between the cracks.
He said he would not be on the street if "the council had not stuffed up in the first place and tried to cover their own backsides".
Stanton has camped on Trafalgar St for the past two years. His grievances include the removal of his horse Barney on welfare grounds in 2015, and a council decision in 2011 to ban him from public land.
Nelson Bays police area commander Inspector Mat Arnold-Kelly said they had an increase in complaints of low level disorder and breaches of the liquor ban on Trafalgar St.
Police were doing everything they could within the current legislation to address the community concerns, he said.
That involved involved engaging with individuals, shop owners, and the council. Police were conducting foot patrols and enforcing the liquor ban in the area, with a number of infringements issued over the past week.
Arnold-Kelly said that individuals sleeping rough on the footpath were not by their mere presence committing any criminal offence. When specific offences were identified they were dealt with appropriately.
The issue of homelessness was a community issue and needed a community solution but police were committed to collaborating with the council and partner agencies to find a solution that is best for everyone.
Karen Targett, 52, who goes by her middle name Janine, said she had sleeping at Stanton's site for about a week after her accommodation at Franklyn Village had ended following an argument.
Targett, 52, who had previously lived in Picton, said she had profound hearing loss and limited eyesight. Before moving into Franklyn Village she had been dealing with mental health services in Nelson.
She said she felt safer living on the street because Stanton and the other occupants kept an eye on her possessions.