A bill which will see window washers at intersections fined $150 on the spot has passed its first reading with support from both National and Labour.
National MP Jami-Lee Ross' bill is aimed at the window washers at intersections and bans people washing a car or a part of a car on a road if it is unsafe, cause an obstruction or "may intimidate or cause a nuisance" to others.
It allows Police to issue spot fines of $150 and has support from Auckland Council and the Police, as well as fines of up to $1000 if someone is prosecuted and convicted of breaching the ban.
Although Auckland Council has a bylaw to stop window washers, it has to prosecute to enforce it - which cost up to $5000 for the sake of a $200 fine.
Ross said a ban and spot fines provided an easier and cheaper route for councils and Police to deal with the problem without having to prosecute.
"I don't expect Police are going to be sitting at every intersection watching for window washers - they're not going to do that. But New Zealand Police have a genuine concern that the activity of window washers, particularly where it involves youth gangs, can lead to other unsociable activities and other issues in an area."
He said giving Police a tool to move window washers on would result in less violence at intersections, less anti-social behavior and fewer complaints. "This isn't just individuals wanting to earn a few bucks here and there. There's a strong presence of gangs involved in this particular activity as well, where gangs have been using window washing for recruitment and initiation."
Ross said some motorists found it intimidating and there were "hotspots" where window washing had led to problems such as Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington and Nelson.
So far 61 people had been prosecuted under Auckland Council's bylaw and a further 170 were underway. "This isn't a one-off thing that happens from time to time. It's a genuine safety and law and order issue."
The measure passed its first reading by 93 votes to 28. It has support from National, Labour, Act and United Future but was opposed by NZ First, the Green Party and Maori Party.
Green Party MP Jan Logie said it risked being an "attack on the poor".
"We need to ask ourselves 'why are people doing this worlk?' Is it because it seems like a fun job, or is it because people are desperate ... and are being driven to measures that must at times be pretty dangerous."
She said it was also unnecessary given there were already bylaws to stop window washing.
Labour's Police spokesman Stuart Nash said it was a pragmatic solution and Labour supported it.
He said while it was fine for people to try to make some pocket money "the way they're doing it has become intimidatory" and it was now seen as anti-social. He said the first thing Rudy Giuliani did when he took over as mayor of New York City was to get rid of the window washers.
"The point I'm making is if people in their cars are feeling unsafe or feeling intimidated in any way, shape or form and the Police feel there's not a decent mechanism to deal with it, then we do have a problem."