Isaac Davison

Isaac Davison is a NZ Herald political reporter.

Washer wipeout: Council seeks right to fine and ban

Council wants right to fine and ban the traffic-light bucket brigade ... and get tough on other street nuisances.

Photo / APN
Photo / APN

Where have you seen window washers today? Contact the Herald here.

Auckland Council wants more power to ban and penalise windscreen washers at intersections.

The washers are already banned under a bylaw, and offenders can be fined up to $20,000.

But the council says the sanctions are costly, complex and ineffective, and it wants the Government to change the law so it can issue infringement notices - possibly in the form of spot fines.

Under the present law, it must get police to confiscate washers' equipment or prosecute them.

Councillors yesterday unanimously backed a proposed law amendment that would allow the council to specify bylaw breaches that would result in an infringement notice.

It can already issue some penalties, such as parking fines. But the proposal, part of a draft submission on the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No 3), would extend council's powers to issue the infringement notices for illegal car window washing at intersections as well as other problems it considers a public nuisance, such as graffiti and illegal street trading.

The acting chairman of the council's strategy and policy committee, Arthur Anae, said: "The council has been against window washing for some time but has no power to do anything. We have to get police to take their buckets ... and they just move a block down the road and start again."

The finer details of the infringement notices would depend on the proposal being adopted by a Parliamentary select committee.

Council chief planning officer Roger Blakeley said officials wanted an immediate, cost-effective sanction - possibly a spot fine.

The size of the fine would depend on the gravity of the offence. Mr Anae, a Manukau councillor, hoped any fine would be less than $100 so it was not too harsh for people who were likely to have small incomes.

While he backed the council's draft submission, he also praised the "entrepreneurial spirit" of the window washers, and wanted a resolution which worked for all parties.

"If I was a teenager, I would probably be doing the same thing to make a buck."

He suggested the washing could be regulated. Washers could get licences to work at specified intersections, and could wear a uniform and follow a code of conduct.

The problem was believed to be worst in Counties Manukau, where police received between 20 and 35 complaints a month.

Late last year, police prevention manager Richard Middleton asked people not to give money to window washers at South Auckland intersections.

"The window washers are a hazard ... and the activity should not be encouraged with payment."

Councils can now issue infringement notices under the Resource Management Act, the Building Act and the Land Transport Act.

But most bylaws cannot be enforced with infringement notices without the Local Government Minister's approval.

The draft submission said local government had long been seeking greater powers and it was disappointing that proposed reforms did not address the issue.

The AA's general manager of motoring affairs, Mike Noon, said some motorists tolerated the window washers, but it often depended on the approach of a particular washer.

"In some places it will be gratefully received with a smile and a wave. But if they're impeding the traffic it's a safety risk, and if the people delivering the service are being intimidatory, that's not welcome."

The proposal is the latest action against people deemed to be a public nuisance.

In May a new Auckland Council bylaw comes into effect, giving council officers the power to ban street beggars who intimidate shoppers.

Now

Auckland Council bylaw bans car window washing at intersections. Penalties include confiscation of equipment by police or prosecution and fine of up to $20,000 for the most serious offences.

Proposed

Government law-change to allow council to issue infringement notices for bylaw breaches, including window washing. This could include spot fines issued by council officers.

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- NZ Herald

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