Windscreen washers angered by crackdown

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 effect.

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 said.

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 that stereotype.

"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 waiting."

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," he said.

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

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