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Lewis Stanton aka Hone Ma Heke should not get one dollar of public money in his quest to return to his life with a horse and cart.

Following a public apology, the Nelson City Council is providing ‘bridging support’ plus help to look for a new horse and build a new cart following years of acrimony with the Council which saw him living on Trafalgar Street in protest for years.

I have no difficulty with people wanting to live an alternative lifestyle. There is far more to life than work and possessions. People should be free to decide how much they work, earn and consume. I welcome the diversity of lifestyle choices that people in Nelson make from the professional lawyer or doctor who chooses to earn a fraction of what they could in a major city, to the person who lives self-sufficiently on an isolated back block.  However, this freedom does not entitle you to other’s money to pay for your lifestyle choice, nor does it mean you can ignore parking rules that everyone else must comply with.

Mr Lewis Stanton has already cost taxpayers and ratepayers a fortune. The taxpayer has forked out over $50,000 in legal aid and the cost to the council and ratepayers has topped $70,000. He previously clocked up over 700 unpaid parking tickets totalling $99,000. I would hate to add up the amount of Council staff time and the cost over the past eight years. There have also been some nasty altercations with the public which resulted in Mr Stanton being convicted for assault and serving time in prison several times.

I am pleased Mr Stanton is no longer occupying our city centre. I, like many others, witnessed him being unpleasant and abusive. It was unfair on people who work hard in our retail businesses and Council who try to create a vibrant, safe and friendly environment. I appreciate the hard work community minded people like Sean Thomas who helped persuade Mr Stanton to move on.

The idea the Council is now going to fork out ratepayers funds to help Mr Stanton re-establish his lifestyle is an anathema.  It is disrespectful to the thousands of law abiding ratepayers, many of whom struggle to pay their rates demands. It also offends the principle that we all have to comply with the Council’s parking rules and pay the fines when he did not.

I wish Mr Stanton well. Living on Trafalgar Street was as unpleasant and unhealthy for Mr Stanton as it was for Nelson city. I hope he can find happiness in a lifestyle of his choice. However, Nelson city ratepayers should be paying none of his bills.

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