Homeless shift to spot under new platform

By Kaysha Brownlie

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Tourists take photos of scenery from the Viewing Platform on Marine Parade, Napier, just above a pile of sleeping gear, clothing and shoes which belong to a homeless person. Photo / Duncan Brown
Tourists take photos of scenery from the Viewing Platform on Marine Parade, Napier, just above a pile of sleeping gear, clothing and shoes which belong to a homeless person. Photo / Duncan Brown

Napier's homeless have migrated from the city's locked bus shelter to its newest tourist attraction - just in time for Art Deco celebrations.

The controversial viewing platform on Marine Parade, proving a popular must-see with visitors, is also popular with street sleepers, who seem keen on spending the night under the new shelter.

Tourists can be seen atop the new structure, taking photographs and marvelling at the views, while underneath them are old couch squabs, bags, litter, clothes and personal items.

Now in full swing, the Art Deco celebrations draw a visitors muster of about 40,000 people to Napier.

Mayor Bill Dalton said there were only a few homeless people in the city and it would be right to assume that those who had been sleeping rough at the bus shelter had moved their belongings under the platform.

He said people had been sleeping beneath the platform for some weeks now, but it wasn't "something you can just fix by clicking you fingers".

Mr Dalton said the council was working with authorities to find homes for these people and that homelessness was a nationwide problem.

"We would dearly love to be in a position to have everyone in Napier to have a roof over their head."

The viewing platform has been a hot topic among locals since construction began in August last year. It was met with mixed emotions which wavered between excitement pending the build, to disappointment following the completion.

The mindset had now changed once again, with many supporting the structure.

The Napier City Council had the platform built to cover a stormwater pipe which is underneath.

A council spokeswoman told Hawke's Bay Today the structure was part of a citywide solution to increase the level of flood protection.

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said she had not had any feedback from tourists about homeless people sleeping at the shelter.

She said it was a popular structure and crowds could often be seen on it.

Limitless Hope co-founder Kiri Swannell, who has been trying to create a shelter for the homeless for the past couple of years, said she "knew that's where they were going to go".

"We offered a solution and the council didn't take us up on it."

Mrs Swannell said about 80 per cent of the homeless were on the Housing New Zealand waiting list but there was no room.

"Putting up bars wasn't a solution," she said about the lockable gates that were put up at the bus stop.

"These guys are people too, could we not put some funds in to help these guys?"

Although the viewing platform is now open to the public the council spokeswoman said it was an ongoing project that would take a number of years to complete.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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