Ban window washers: 'It's a nightmare'
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A violent attack on a motorist who refused to have his windscreen washed at a South Auckland intersection has sparked renewed calls for the controversial practice to be outlawed.
The brawl broke out at lunchtime yesterday at the intersection of Great South Road and Cavendish Drive in Manukau - a spot that has sparked half of all complaints about unsolicited windscreen cleaning across Auckland.
Accountant and Otara-Papatoetoe Board member Stephen Grey described how he was cycling when he saw the washers running to join a fight at the Caltex next to the intersection, where the driver had stopped.
"Five of them were belting one guy, and I thought he was going to get a kicking so I jumped in," Mr Grey said.
"I caught a punch myself while trying to keep them apart. I got the gas station to ring the police but the fight just went on and on."
When officers arrived, the group scarpered, one on Mr Grey's bike.
Mr Grey made a complaint to police, but the motorist didn't want to get involved, driving off before he could be interviewed. The man's partner and two kids were in the car, and witnessed the attack.
Mr Grey said he was told it started after the man refused a wash.
"He was a bit mouthy about it, so they came to get him."
It is the latest in a string of alleged incidents involving washers at the intersection. There have been allegations of shoplifting, car theft, intimidation and gang presence.
Auckland Council manager of Bylaws and Compliance Max Wilde said half of the 40 complaints it receives each month regarding window washing relate to the site.
Since December, the council had prosecuted in 32 separate cases for window washing. A couple of cases had involved the same offenders.
In 2013, the council introduced a bylaw - carrying a maximum fine of $20,000 - banning windscreen washing if it is unsafe, intimidating, causing a nuisance or blocking traffic.
Some window washers say they can earn hundreds of dollars a day.
Wilde called yesterday's incident "violent" and said window washing was an ongoing problem. Several joint operations had taken place this year with police targeting problem areas such as Cavendish Drive and Mt Wellington, he said.
Council spokeswoman Andrea Birtwistle said council staff had been at the intersection last week videoing the window washers and were working with police to identify them. "They can falsify their names because they don't have identification on them."
The latest incident was a police matter as council staff did not have sufficient powers to deal with violence or make arrests, she said.
She said while there were no plans to ban window washing, the public should not encourage window washers with money.
However, Mr Grey said the washing was "out of hand" and called on the council to make it illegal.
"It's clearly becoming a public nuisance. And because of the council bylaw, police are hamstrung."
Manukau Central Business Association general manager Kerry Burridge said the area had long been a hot spot for trouble, and the group had been lobbying police and council to get the problems sorted.
"There's a whole lot of crime that surrounds the area when they are there. It's a nightmare," she said.
Up to 30 washers could congregate in one day. Some were children, employed to run things for the washers or take money.
Ms Burridge said a recent crackdown in Otara had resulted in washers moving to Cavendish corner.
Auckland Council gave police the authority to trespass people at the intersection of Bairds and East Tamaki roads in Otara in June, after receiving almost 100 complaints about windscreen washers there.
The number of people washing at the intersection had dropped dramatically since the operation launched.
Police said they attended yesterday's incident but the washers had gone by the time they arrived.
They referred further questions to the council, which was responsible for enforcing the bylaw.
• Great South Rd and Green Lane West (Greenlane)
• Waipuna Rd and Mt Wellington Highway (Mt Wellington)
• Great North Rd and Rata St (New Lynn)
• Cavendish Drive and Great South Rd (Manukau)
• Bairds Rd and East Tamaki Rd (Otara)
Don't want your windscreen washed?
• Make it clear. Shake your head or say no.
• Roll up your car windows and don't engage in conversation.
• If they continue to wash your car and demand payment in an intimidating way, make a complaint to the council by phoning 09 301 0101.
• Take a photo on your phone of the offender if you feel unsafe and send to the council or police.
• In cases of criminal activity such as assault or wilful damage,
Source: Auckland Council