Whangarei MP suggests window washers could pick fruit

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Whangarei MP Shane Reti says window washing is a public nuisance and not a safe job but the youths doing it want to work. Photo/John Stone
Whangarei MP Shane Reti says window washing is a public nuisance and not a safe job but the youths doing it want to work. Photo/John Stone

Local MP Shane Reti said Whangarei residents have been vocal about wanting to ban window washers.

Dr Reti said he supported a bill amending the Land Transport Act that will make it an offence for window washers to approach vehicles in a manner that may be unsafe or cause a nuisance.

He raised the matter of perceived and sometimes real intimidation in Parliament last summer in response to constituents' concerns.

But he said the proposed change will only go half way if agencies do not work toward finding alternative jobs, possibly ones seasonal workers already have, for the window washers.

The "other side to this story" was how to harness the window washers' "commendable" enterprise and willingness to work, he said.

"Good on them for getting out there and doing something, so now let's make them safe and offer an alternative."

One solution could lie in them taking up fruit picking jobs, instead of hanging about intersections, Dr Reti said.

"There are currently hundreds of overseas orchard workers in and around Kerikeri doing seasonal work under the RSE [Recognised Seasonal Worker] programme. Imagine if we could offer the window washers transport to and from Whangarei and a good day's pay for a good day's work in an orchard."

It was a matter he planned to discuss with local employers, Work and Income and window washers.

The proposed Land Transport bill would cut through the red tape and expensive court processes that have hamstrung Whangarei District and other councils in dealing with window washers.

Before the bill, the solution was muddied as the New Zealand Transport Agency and local councils had different responsibilities over intersecting highways and local roads.

This new tool for police would see window washers fined $150 on-the-spot and banned, and fined up to $1000 if they are caught again.

Dr Reti agreed that moving window washers on would result in less anti-social behaviour and fewer complaints, but he also said behaviour that one person found intimidating might not be to someone else.

He said he once laid a complaint with the police when he saw four groups of four youths - 16 in total - on each side of the Kamo Rd and State Highway 1 intersection.

He complained as much for the window washers' safety as any nuisance factor.

He welcomed the inbuilt safety measure in the law change.

He said if there were fewer window washers ducking amongst the traffic there would be less chance of them being injured by vehicles.

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