Councillor calls for scrapping of new ‘Public Places Bylaw’

A Queenstown councillor says a bylaw threatening the livelihoods of waterfront traders should be scrapped as proper consultation wasn’t carried out.

Under the Activities in Public Places Bylaw 2023, about 40 traders who have licences to operate along a narrow 200-metre strip by the lake wall have to move their stalls every hour, and remain at least 50m from each other.

Many craft stallholders have shut down after council enforcement officers, just before Christmas, said they’d start policing the new bylaw from January 3, while several food vendors have continued operating.

However, one food vendor, Danna Burton, who’s operated a crepe stall for two-and-a-half years, tells Mountain Scene the draft bylaw, when it came out, only imposed those onerous conditions on buskers.

She says those conditions were only imposed on pop-up stalls and charity street collectors when council adopted the bylaw last August.

Shown the council paperwork this week, councillor Niki Gladding says correct process wasn’t followed.

‘‘The draft bylaw that went out for consultation did not say pop-up stallholders would need to move every hour — those conditions were only proposed for busking.

‘‘As a result, we didn’t get submissions on the point and it wasn’t discussed.

‘‘If the stallholders had known this, they would have submitted to it.

‘‘It would have been heard at the hearing, it would have been one of the issues that cropped up, but it wasn’t.

‘‘If they didn’t know about it, the process is wrong, because it’s a statutory process.’’

Requirement to move every hour ”absurd”

Council’s argument is the previous bylaw defined ‘busking’ to include pop-up stallholders and charity street collectors.

‘‘This definition remained in the draft 2023 bylaw,’’ spokeswoman Rebecca Pitts says.

‘‘Through the consultation process, the potential for confusion was pointed out and rectified in the bylaw that was subsequently adopted by
council, i.e. listing out ‘busking, pop-up stallholder and charity street collection’ to make it clearer.’’

Moreover, Pitts notes council’s consultation document made it clear ‘‘no changes were proposed to the previous practices or conditions for busking, pop-up stalls or charity street collection’’.

Gladding, however, states: ‘‘Looking back at the 2016 bylaw, I can’t see how it requires a pop-up stallholder to move every hour.

“Absurd”: Queenstown councillor Niki Gladding

‘‘If it was confusing in the previous bylaw, the confusion should have been worked out in the draft that was sent out to the community.’’

Gladding also believes the requirement for stallholders to move every hour is ‘‘nuts’’.

‘‘Buskers moving every hour makes sense, stallholders moving every hour would be a nuisance.

‘‘It’s an absurd requirement.

‘‘The last thing you want is all stallholders moving around and jostling every hour.

‘‘It would create more problems than just staying put.’’

Burton echoes Gladding’s concerns.

‘‘If we have to move every hour it’s going to create a nuisance, it’s going to create health and safety issues in a heavily-populated area.’’

Ironically, she quotes from council paperwork saying the purpose of the draft bylaw was to protect the public from nuisance and promote the health and safety of the public.

Burton adds some vendors also have very hot stoves — if they had to be moved every hour it’d be a circus, she says.

She also notes some vendors take an hour or longer just to setup.

For Gladding, the bottom line is ‘‘council needs to look at its consultation process and consider revisiting the decision’’.

‘‘And in the meantime, I think council should pause any enforcement of those rules.’’

Burton says legal advice she’s had is ‘‘if we don’t get any discussion with council, we have grounds to take [the bylaw] to the High Court for a judicial review’’.

Meantime, Pitts says, primarily due to crowding in the area becoming an issue as Queenstown visitor numbers return to pre-Covid levels, ‘‘what has changed is the need for more active enforcement of the conditions’’.

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