Freedom camper's free home with $10m view

Fisherman John at Wynyard Pt, next to the four-wheel-drive vehicle that has become a permanent fixture. He says the area is a fisherman's park. Photo / Richard Robinson

His farm-registered SUV and makeshift lean-to with rudimentary kitchen shelves has occupied a prime corner of Auckland's waterfront for more than a year.

A so-called freedom camper and fisherman called John is bamboozling officials under pressure to move him on.

His possie is on Wynyard Pt, at the northern end of a precinct in the throes of a multibillion-dollar redevelopment, and just across the water from property developer Dave Henderson's $10 million penthouse on Princes Wharf.

John, who will not give his full name, says it is part of a "fisherman's park" allowing him a right to peaceful occupation.

He says he is not hurting anybody by being there, in the company of more occasional freedom campers and anglers, in the sun and breeze a world away from the melee of Queen St.

But another fisherman pressing Auckland Transport to take action accuses him of arrogance in monopolising the site, and obscuring a road safety sign warning motorists of a sharp right-hand bend.

"Not only is he parked in front of this sign, which is erected on to a tin fence, but he has built a shelter with kitchen shelves between his vehicle and the fence," said the complainant, who did not want to be identified.

The man said the council's transport body had painted broken yellow lines along the full eastern side of Bingham St except for the final two or three metres - under John's vehicle.

"He refused to move for them to paint there."

John told the Herald he had a personal "gripe" with Auckland Council, and did not want to go public with it. "That's personal between me and the council - I'm not going to advertise my position,"

"This is a fisherman's park, it always has been," said John, who is believed to be of Cook Islands Maori descent.

But when asked if he was exercising customary rights to the fishery, he said he was receiving legal advice.

Auckland Transport communications general manager Wally Thomas said John was "well known to us", having been at the location on and off for up to three years.

Although parking officers had issued his vehicle with 15 infringement notices, including for being unwarranted and unregistered and for "inconsiderate parking", Mr Thomas said it was up the courts to rule on those and to Auckland Council to move him under the Freedom Camping Act.

Mr Thomas said the SUV's Class B registration required it to stay within a maximum radius of a farm where it was supposed to be based.

"One of his defences was that it [Wynyard Wharf] is called the Tank Farm."

Auckland Council spokesman Glyn Walters said John did not have approval to park overnight and that "ultimately he will have to move on and find a safer and more appropriate location to live".

"We discourage long-stay visitors at Wynyard Point because it is a public highway and also because hazardous chemicals are stored nearby," Mr Walters said.

"Auckland Transport works actively to remove vehicles from this area but it appears this individual keeps returning."

- Mathew Dearnaley of the NZ Herald

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