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Occupy Wellington letter to Wellington City Council

Occupy Wellington letter to Wellington City Council

Background: Occupy Wellington was delivered a letter from the Wellington City Council on the 25th of January 2012 asking them to leave the campsite. The letter can be viewed here and here.

Occupy Wellington
Civic Square

26 January 2012

Tena koe Garry Poole,

Thank you for your letter of 25 January 2012, responding to two individual occupiers’ letters. These occupier's letters were written in response to your letter of 22 December 2011 asking the occupiers to leave by 4 January 2012, the area on the Civic Square known by the Council as Maui’s Garden.

The occupy movement

The occupation is not confined to a finite group of individuals. The people presently in occupation are principally focused on the issues of affordable and accessible housing.

Collectively we believe that the position taken by the Council in response to the 2 acknowledged conditions is unreasonable as well as it is inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990.

Your response appears to be bound by financial constraint. Such matters on how a collected wealth and in this case rate payer funds, is distributed, lies at the very heart and cause for the global occupy movement.

It is submitted that the current cost of housing and Council rental is unaffordable. The occupiers believe that not only are these matters deeply set in the public interest but also that the present economic environment and wealth distribution justifies further protest.

Accordingly where the conditions issued are based from a position of primary need, the group considers the occupation strictly adheres to the founding principles of the movement.

Location and convenience

Maui’s Garden is unobtrusive. It is out of the way of the public. The area sits under the direct watch of the buildings of the New Zealand Stock Exchange, Wellington City Council and the New Zealand Police. There is sufficient space for pedestrians to pass, especially if electing to have no contact with the occupiers and there are several other seated public areas that are grassed, quiet and relaxing close by. The occupiers have not reserved the area but instead are inclusive and invite all of the public to continue to use the space. The Council has made no complaint about any loss of revenue from lost bookings.

Therefore it is not considered that the occupation is of any significant inconvenience to the public.

The legality and any enforcement

You maintain that the occupation is illegal and insist that the activity can be interpreted as ‘camping’ and therefore inconsistent with a bylaw. This interpretation of the bylaw must be consistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The tents and structures are property. They are necessary to facilitate the occupation, which is an extension of public liberty that is protected and enshrined in the act. The property is either personally owned by individuals in the group or collectively owned by Occupy Wellington. It is therefore protected by law.

The Police have already made it clear that they respect the freedoms set out in the act, declining to enforce any issue of trespass from such openly public space. The physical removal of a person or property from the occupation would be challenged as a rate payer funded assault or theft.

Ongoing relationship

Occupy Wellington has been in consistent discussion with the Wellington Police about the real, circumstantial or otherwise perceived issues of occupation. The relationship, given the movement’s continual peaceful dialogue has been cooperative and excellent.

Additionally, a meeting has been held weekly between the Council’s community liaison officer, Steve Flude, the Downtown Community Ministry and Occupy Wellington. These meetings and the associated activity have been extremely beneficial and conclusive for some members of the public who have otherwise slipped through the existing social services.

These facts of homeless people’s relocation under a broader plan of reconnection, demonstrate the vital need for a facility in central Wellington as is sought by the occupiers. Your summary of the first condition is therefore incorrect. Occupy Wellington is looking to ensure that this building and its facility is to provide for Wellington and not just as you claim the immediate occupiers.

Additionally the Council is asked to provide a building, not necessarily one that it owns. This would be in line with the responsibility to provide for affordable and accessible housing. It is known that budgets for this type of initiative already exist and the occupiers reject that it is their responsibility to somehow craft the need into the Council’s Long Term Plan. On this point it is critical to note that the original request of Occupy Wellington for Council to host a public meeting with all those parties concerned with this important social issue, has been omitted from the recorded correspondence and conditions.

As stated earlier Occupy Wellington is working closely and cooperatively with the Police. This now includes providers for people with mental health issues. The need for a meeting for all concerned services or providers to discuss the matter of housing for disaffected people in Wellington has been agreed and is encouraged. Given the circumstances of an implied physical eviction from the Civic Square site and under the legal boundaries of reasonable behaviour the present occupiers believe the request for open public dialogue should be considered as urgent and this discussion should not be impeded by disrupting and dispercing participants.

Yours sincerely

*************

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