Dunedin council considers court action to move protestors

By Paul Harper

The Occupy Dunedin group has been living in tents in central Dunedin's Octagon. Photo / Otago Daily Times
The Occupy Dunedin group has been living in tents in central Dunedin's Octagon. Photo / Otago Daily Times

The Dunedin City Council is likely to decide by tomorrow morning whether it will seek court action to remove protestors camping on the upper Octagon.

A senior Dunedin police officer has revealed police would not enforce a trespass notice issued on October 15 by the Dunedin City Council to the Occupy Dunedin protesters because it would leave them open to being sued for breaching the Bill of Rights Act.

Council had sought to have the protestors removed under the city's camping bylaws, but will now have to look at other options, including obtaining a court order.

Mayor Dave Cull said council will discuss their options this afternoon, and should have a decision either later today or tomorrow morning.

"The decision might be it is too hard and we do nothing. We don't know yet," Mr Cull said.

"In terms of legal options we just haven't had a chance to consider them yet.

"There are a number [of legal options], but all of those would involve some kind of injunction, court judgement or judicial review of some kind, but ... we've got to look at what the problem is and are we prepared to expend that amount of time, energy and money and scale it up to that extent."

Mr Cull dismissed reports the council were considering using private security to evict the protestors.

"We're not going to go down that road," he said.

He said the police decision not to evict the protestors due to the Bill of Rights had ramification for local authorities around the country.

"I think the issue is ... if the Bill of Rights somehow overrides bylaws or other laws, from a local government point of view we need to know what laws are overridden. In other words the question I want an answer to is what laws can you break in the commissions of protesting, and be permitted to do so. We don't know the answer to that."

Mr Cull said it was not the protest that was the issue, but rather the camping.

"No one is saying they can't be there. No one is saying they can't protest. What we are saying is, we have a rule against camping ... and our community does not want them to be camping there.

Mr Cull said if the protestors were to occupy the site during the day, but not stay the night, it would be lawful.

"Frankly the amount of bogging up of the ground and increased human waste around the place helps explain why we have a camping bylaw. It has been a bit of an issue. It is not so bad now we've got a port-o-loo, but it is still worse than we want it to be."

- Otago Daily Times

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