Intersection windscreen washers say a police and council
crackdown may force them to ditch their brushes and bottles
and turn to harder crime to survive.
An Auckland Council bylaw prohibiting window washing and
other "offensive behaviour" was introduced at the end of May,
and the first wave of those charged by police are now moving
through the court system.
While police say the issue is one of "community safety" and
the council says nipping it in the bud might restrict more
serious offending, those who spend their time waiting by
traffic lights say targeting them will have the opposite
Although only a handful of defendants have been charged by
police, one west Auckland man now faces two charges after
being arrested in both June and July.
Fuatiana Laumua, 20, is alleged to have "washed or offered to
wash a vehicle or any part thereof in a manner that may have
caused an obstruction to traffic".
When spoken to at his Glen Eden home, he and other windscreen
washers hit back at lawmakers.
One of the youngest of a group of more than a dozen who
manned intersections in west Auckland to make cash, Laumua
was reserved when discussing the alleged offending.
He said he had been washing windows for about two years, and
the new hard line would not stop him.
"We're only trying to make a living . . . I'll carry on," he
A police spokeswoman said criminal charges were a last
resort, and followed initial roadside warnings.
The council bylaw refers to "nuisances, safety and behaviour
such as obstructing use of a public space, the use of mind
altering substances, window washing and begging in a way that
may intimidate others".
Experienced washer Shane Rore said he and his mates went out
of their way not to intimidate road users, even when they
were desperate for cash.
"What are you supposed to do when Work and Income doesn't
cover it? What do they want us to do? Go start robbing
people?" he said.
For many on the streets, Mr Rore said that was the only
alternative to washing.
He also rejected the claim their practice was dangerous.
"They say we're at risk of being hurt, but we minimise that
by buying hi-vis [vests]."
Although those on the street were often painted as drug
addicts trying to scrape money together, Mr Rore rejected
"The benefit isn't much. You're left with bugger all at the
end of the week," he said.
"The aim is to get a feed and get through the day. Half of us
have got kids -- their families are sitting in the car
Father of five Andrew Corey said his sole motivation was
providing for himself and his kids but he said having a
criminal record made it difficult to get a job.
"As soon as I make my money, I take it home for my daughter,"
The tightened rules would not stop him washing, and Mr Rore
said the number of people doing it was increasing.
"You've got to get out there and hustle and the quickest way
to hustle is to wash. Everybody out there is trying to make a
dollar," he said.
However, an Auckland Council spokeswoman said there had been
very few examples of "public nuisance" since the bylaw's
inception, which she primarily put down to the weather.
- By Rob Kidd of APNZ