'Time' protesters went home

Photo:Peter McIntosh
Photo:Peter McIntosh
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins is leading calls for the Octagon occupiers to go home, but the council is yet to act despite having the power to have them trespassed.

Mr Hawkins said yesterday it was time for the protesters to go home.

"I respect the right of groups to protest, but surely this one has outlived its purpose."

With the recent announcement of the end of most vaccine mandates and changes to other Covid-19 restrictions it was "hard to see what’s left to protest", he said.

The protesters have been in place, with tents and billies, in the upper Octagon, across the street from council buildings, for more than a month.

The protest has been mostly peaceful, though behaviour from people associated with the camp has been the subject of police attention and general concern from members of the public several times.

When asked if the council would take action to move on the protesters, a city council spokesman said it was considering its options.

Staff were monitoring the situation, he said.

A police spokeswoman said police were keeping an eye on the occupation, but it was up to the council to ask protesters to move on.

The council, like any other land owner, had the ability to trespass people from its property, she said.

Marlborough District Council had trespass notices issued to anti-mandate protesters occupying the Nelson Park Reserve last month.

It is unclear what the protesters motivations or intentions are.

They have repeatedly declined to speak to the Otago Daily Times citing a distrust in mainstream media.

City councillors, however, had more to say.

It was "definitely time" for the protesters to leave, Cr Andrew Whiley said.

"The Octagon is a place for all Dunedin residents and I am extremely disappointed it has been hijacked."

He was concerned about other protest groups copying the style of the protest.

Unless the bylaws were changed, preferably to ensure no occupation could take place for longer than 24 hours and no structures could be erected without permission, it would be difficult to remove another, similar, occupation in the future.

Cr Sophie Barker said she supported the right to protest,

but it was "time to let everyone have their Octagon back."

Cr Steve Walker said it was "most definitely" time for protesters to go home and that any continued presence was " quite frankly ridiculous".

Cr David Benson-Pope said the protest was "ill-conceived and misdirected", but the

the city had "limited legal capacity to intervene."

Various bylaws did provide some options but were open to challenge in terms of the Bill of Rights Act and the right to protest, he said.

People who worked in the area said they were confused by the continued occupation.

"They’ve got what they asked for ... why are they still there?" one said.

Another said while had had not issue with the "fairly docile" group, though he did not understand why they were still camped out given the end of the Wellington protest and the recent announcement.

Another said the group had been "pretty chill" and had been there so long they felt like "part of the scenery".

 

 

wyatt.ryder@odt.co.nz

 

 

 

 

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