17 Feb 2022

'The law has failed': Cranmer Square residents say protesters camping illegally

3:26 pm on 17 February 2022

Cranmer Square residents say they feel like Christchurch City Council and police do not care about their welfare while protesters are on their doorstep.

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Some Cranmer Square have temporarily moved out of their homes, unable to bear any more disruption. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

Anti-mandate protesters have erected tents, gazebos, caravans and portaloos in the central park since Monday, but the square has been a regular meeting place of Destiny Church and the Freedom and Rights Coalition for months.

None of the residents wanted to be named, out of fear of being targeted by the protesters.

A resident said a neighbour had rung them crying, distraught over the lack of local authority action.

"I think I've sent four or five written inquiries [to council] and I haven't had a response to any of them," they said.

"And nothing from police - no door knockers, no one asking questions, no one checking to see whether we are safe, no one dealing with cars parked on the footpath.

"They just don't care."

The resident wondered why the protesters had even chosen to square as their base.

"Why here? There are no council buildings or police or anything like that. It's just residents and a school."

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It started with two tents pitched overnight on Monday. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

Another couple, who live a few houses down, said the camping in the square had to stop.

"Many years ago, another resident negotiated with [Christchurch City] council for no camping in the park ... it is clearly marked ... what about the sign do people not understand?

"Camping there is illegal and they're getting away with it ... as soon as our tree has a single branch hanging outside of our property, the council is onto us with a seven day notice - we know that when they want to take action, they can.

"The council has got to be fair."

The couple said the camping began with two tents set up under the cover of darkness on Monday, which had swollen to about 30 tents today.

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A Cranmer Square resident believes the law has failed them. Photo: RNZ / Niva Chittock

Caravans, vans and gazebos have also appeared with dogs and children.

Others nearby have temporarily moved out of their homes, unable to bear any more disruption.

"Every Saturday and Sunday for months, we've had 19 motorbikes connected to Brian Tamaki driving on the grass and around the park," the couple said.

"And now there's this, which is expected to keep growing in preparation for a big event this Saturday."

Another resident believed the law had failed them.

They said they had talked to the council about the protesters in the past, without any success.

"The council said it has not been able to send staff to the park because they were concerned for their safety and said they would only attend with police protection.

"But the police are only monitoring the situation, so nothing happens.

"This is the first time I've seen the law tested and it has failed. It has failed to protect its citizens."

Christchurch City Council released a statement yesterday saying "the council is working closely with police to monitor the situation",

It said the disruption of the rights of others and public safety were the council's main focuses.

Local police also confirmed in a statement yesterday it was monitoring the situation.

"Police respect the lawful right to protest and will continue to monitor the situation to ensure there is minimal disruption to the wider public."

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