Council beefs up bylaw on parades

By John Cousins

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Outrage sparked by the Boobs on Bikes parade has resulted in a planned far-reaching strengthening of council powers to control parades and public demonstrations on Tauranga streets.

The city council has beefed up the bylaw that deals with public parades following the furore created by last year's topless procession.

But the defiant organiser of Boobs on Bikes, Auckland pornographer Steve Crow, said he did not even intend to read the bylaw, let alone make a submission.

"They can make up any pretty little bylaw they like," he said.

When Auckland City Council introduced a bylaw to try and stop the parade, a judge declared it illegal, he said.

Mr Crow said he has not decided whether to repeat the parade in Tauranga this year although he said the bylaw was an incentive. "I love taking on bureaucrats"

The review of the bylaw followed widespread condemnation of Boobs on Bikes, although that did not stop thousands of people lining The Strand and Devonport Rd, along with a few protesters who were prevented from stopping the parade by police.

The proposed bylaw did not alter the fundamental reasons by which the council could decide whether or not to allow a parade. They were offensiveness, endangering public safety, causing a nuisance and impeding traffic and pedestrians.

But rather than leaving the organiser to judge whether the parade met the criteria, the new bylaw also gave the council the power to require an application for permission. It meant the council could stop a parade from taking place if it considered there were reasonable grounds to believe the parade met the grounds for refusal. The bylaw also proposed to give the council wide-ranging powers to stop parades and demonstrations by saying that, in determining whether or not to grant permission, the council could consider "any relevant matter".

The example of relevant matters listed in the bylaw were whether the activity "may give rise to some public disorder", the effect it may have on the normal use of the area, the expected number of participants and spectators, and its time, location and duration.

In withholding permission, the council had to demonstrate that its decision met the provisions of the New Zealand Bill of Rights. The council would need to consider the significance of the problems caused by the parade and whether refusing permission was a "proportionate response".

The council would also have to show that refusal interfered with rights or freedoms "as little as is reasonably possible in the circumstances".

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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