13 Oct 2016

Retailers air concerns - and laundry - over Nelson protester

7:41 am on 13 October 2016

Retailers in Nelson are hitting back at what they say is a lack of action over long-time vagrant Lewis Stanton, who has been camped outside a central city store for months.

Mr Stanton has spent decades living in the city's public spaces and his latest base is in front of the Farmers department store in Trafalgar Street.

Mr Stanton, also known as Hone Ma Heke, has been imprisoned, fined, and trespassed off Nelson's public land, but continues to return to his makeshift camps.

Retailers said police and Nelson City Council had failed to resolve the matter so they have taken matters into their own hands, hanging laundry outside shops in protest against Mr Stanton's habit of doing the same.

The building Mr Stanton lives outside is owned by inner city retailers' spokesperson Gaire Thompson, who said a bylaw change was needed to enable police or the Fire Service to act.

"At the moment we've had very little success with approaching both those authorities, because they say it's down to the council to sort the problem."

Travel agency owner Lynette Stevenson and pharmacy owner Renata Schrader told councillors Mr Stanton was a "frightening character".

Surf shop owner John Hogan said while Mr Stanton had a right to protest, the issue was around where he did it.

Mr Hogan encouraged other retailers to follow his example by hanging laundry outside their shops in protest.

He said the situation was unfair on the businesses paying massive rents for prime central city space.

Mr Stanton recently told RNZ he was not after much.

"Start communicating - that would be the number one thing. They have to be accountable for the actions they created, that started all this off."

Mayor Rachel Reese, who was re-elected at the weekend for a second term, agreed the situation needed to be resolved urgently.

She had asked the council's chief executive to review options on ensuring a people-friendly, vibrant central city.

"I don't think living on the main street is consistent with that, but I have to recognise that New Zealand law provides a lot of freedoms to individuals and no council can break the law - we have to comply with it, so we're seeking some legal advice on is possible within the constraints of the law."

Ms Reese said she had yet to discuss the issue with the new council, but it was high on her list.

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