After more than six months camped outside the Reserve Bank building in Martin Place, and following months of negotiations between the state government and the City of Sydney Council, the homeless occupants of Sydney’s tent city began packing up their belongings on August 11.
The man often called the “Mayor of Martin Place”, Lanz Priestley, said some camp dwellers were moving to “friend’s places” or “friend’s backyards”, but some “don’t have anywhere to go”.
The free kitchen and “24/7 safe space” at the site was also packed up. Priestley said the free kitchen would be reopened soon at a new location.
Lord Mayor Clover Moore had tried to strike a deal to move the tents to another “safe space”. But the residents were left without any real detail on where they would be moving to and were reluctant to abandon Martin Place without certainty.
When that deal fell apart, the state government passed a law on August 10 that gave police the power to move people on if it was determined that they were engaged in "unauthorised activity that compromises public safety". The law applies only to Crown land within the City of Sydney, and does not extend to other councils.
The law was opposed by Labor and the Greens, who described it as a smokescreen to mask “political argy-bargy” between the state government and the City Council.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian said: “This is a course of action I wish I didn’t have to take but it’s a course of action we have to take because to date the City of Sydney has not done what it had within its power to do and what it should have done.”
Moore responded: “The law hasn’t changed in the past week — the city still has no power to move people on and we still strongly believe that without long-term, supported and affordable housing we’re going to see more homeless camps across the CBD.”