TODAY |

Councillor causes a stir after suggesting group living in cars in Wellington are freedom campers

A Wellington City Councillor’s put her foot in it by suggesting a group of people living in their cars were freedom campers, when some are in fact homeless.

It's put the spotlight on the capital’s homelessness issue, which has been blamed on the city’s housing crisis.

The problem is in the multi-million dollar suburb of Oriental Bay where several cars line the main street.

When 1 NEWS visited, John Clarriage, who has lived in his car for three years, was making his breakfast. He says several people along the road were homeless like him, and were unable to afford rent.

Another person 1 NEWS talked to was Matthieu, who has been sleeping in his car for several weeks after struggling to find a job, since coming from France.

But local resident association president Andy Thomson says this has some locals upset.

"Our primary concern is really sanitation and health… you can’t just sweep it under the rug and have people living in a car on the main street, and you know, going to a toilet in a park," he says.

This stretch of road was identified by Nicola Young in a local newsletter, calling people living here "freedom campers" and suggesting parking charges.

She says she’s received abusive messages since the comment, but she told 1 NEWS this is a valid problem.

"I have a duty to respond to the concerns of local residents and all the Wellingtonians who love our favourite beach," she says.

However Mr Lester warns about mixing up the two problems.

"It’s really important not to confuse the two - freedom camping and homelessness are completely different situations," Mr Lester says.

Other councillors including Brian Dawson, who holds the housing portfolio, agree. He says the problem is a symptom of Wellington’s housing crisis.

"I rent in Wellington so know what I'm paying, and I'm paying a lot more than I would be able to afford if I was on a benefit, or if I was earning minimum wage or even close to it," he says.

It's put the spotlight on the homelessness issue in the capital. Source: 1 NEWS