30 Nov 2017

Nelson resident gets council apology

7:10 pm on 30 November 2017

A man who has been living rough for years in Nelson as a protest has received an apology from Nelson City Council for its disrespectful treatment of him.

lewis stanton

lewis stanton Photo: RNZ

Lewis Stanton, also known as Hone Ma Heke, has until recently been living in Trafalgar Street in protest over an historic trespass notice.

It was one of several locations around the city on which he protested by camping out, most often in earlier times with his horse Barney.

Barney towed a cart containing Mr Stanton's belongings, but public concern about the welfare of the horse prompted its removal by the SPCA.

He set up home on the pavement in Nelson's Trafalgar Street, upsetting retailers, who criticised the council for what they saw was a lack of action when it was unable to move him on, until recently.

New mayor of Nelson Rachel Reese.

Mayor of Nelson Rachel Reese Photo: RNZ

Today, Nelson mayor Rachel Reese apologised to Mr Stanton on behalf of the council and in recognition of "the inappropriateness of a historic trespass notice given to him".

"Nelson City Council apologises to Hone Ma Heke (Lewis Stanton) for the disrespectful manner in which he feels he has been treated over the years, particularly for the manner in which the blanket trespass was issued in 2011 and the tone of letters to Hone Ma Heke dating back to 2001," the council said in a statement.

Lewis Stanton.

Lewis Stanton. Photo: RNZ / Alison Hossain

In return, Mr Stanton apologised.

"I apologise to the members of the public and Nelson businesses who were inconvenienced by my protest. I am also grateful to those who supported me during my protest, thank you very much," he said.

"It was never my intention to protest in the manner, or for the duration that I did. However, I was left with little choice after the actions of the [council]."

Mr Stanton told RNZ he was happy with the outcome, but there were still a few things to iron out.

"It's a work in progress and today was a big step in history, to do with making sure that we have a contract of understanding and commitment to resolving the problem."

Mr Stanton said the council has been supporting his accommodation at a local motorcamp. He said he now planned to meet with the council again to sort out the next steps, including where he might live.

A council spokesperson confirmed it provided "minimal bridging support" while alternative funding sources were sought from other agencies.

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