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Council to act on Hagley Park protest

Thursday 22 March 2012

Council to act on Hagley Park protest

Christchurch City Council has directed staff to enforce a city bylaw by removing Occupy Christchurch protestors from South Hagley Park.

The Council today considered a report from staff outlining a means for the Council to remove the group, which is camping illegally in the park. The Council also heard from representatives of the protestors, who made a deputation to the meeting this morning.

Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker says the protestors raised some issues of concern and he is asking staff to contact city social agencies to help the protestors should they need to find alternative accommodation.

"Public feedback has overwhelmingly requested that the campers be removed so that all residents can have access to the park. While everyone in this country has the right to protest, they do not have the right to do so in breach of a bylaw and in a way that stops other residents from using a popular public space.

"The Council has taken a measured approach to the issue of protestors camping in South Hagley Park and I make no apologies for the time it has taken to remove them. Staff have carefully followed the outcomes of action taken by other local councils who have dealt with similar protests in their areas, to ensure we are acting correctly.

"We were particularly interested in the legal outcome of the Auckland Council's application to the High Court to stop the campers from breaching a bylaw. The High Court decision was that the bylaw did not breach the Bill of Rights; it found that there was no fundamental human right to camp in a public place without a permit. This satisfied us that we would not be in breach of the Bill of Rights by removing the protestors.

"For good reason, these protestors have not been our top priority - over past months our focus has remained on the massive task of rebuilding our city. Staff have monitored the situation and the Council is now saying enough is enough."

South Hagley Park is vested in the Council as a recreation reserve for the purpose of recreation activities for the enjoyment of the public. The Council's Parks and Reserves Bylaw 2008 provides that no person may, without the prior written permission of an authorised Council officer:

* Place a sign in a reserve (clause 6(1)(d)); or

* Camp in a reserve unless in an area set aside by the Council for camping (clause 10); or

* Put up a tent or structure of any kind in a reserve (clause 10).

Staff update to protestors

Council staff this afternoon visited the protestors and passed out Council's 'No Fixed Abode' booklet, which offers advice on emergency housing within Christchurch, as well as application forms for City Housing Council accommodation. There is a waiting list for this accommodation as a result of recent earthquakes. Staff explained the housing shortage to the campers and offered to continue to work with them to identify realistic options for anyone needing assistance as well as providing links to other agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development and the Salvation Army, if required.

During the today's visit, protestors indicated to staff that they intended to leave the site this weekend.


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