Sydney’s tent city finally cleared out

tenttSydney’s tent city in Martin Place which triggered a political stand-off between the city council and the NSW government has been voluntarily cleared out after six months.

The man dubbed the “Mayor of Martin Place”, Lanz Priestley, helped the last stragglers pack their tents under the watchful eyes of police as the final rays of sunlight hit the pavement outside the Reserve Bank building which had been home to at least 70 homeless people.

But Mr Priestley told AAP the dispersion of the camp wouldn’t be the end of the homeless community and he stood by calls for the government to help formulate a long-term solution.

“We’ll have something else set up and running sustainably within a month,” he said.

Legislation passed NSW parliament on Thursday empowering police to tear down the tents if it was deemed there was a “public safety issue”.

Mr Priestley said, the camp decided to move on to avoid any ugly confrontation.

“We called the police here to help us, we anticipated more aggressive media and I needed the space to hold them off and organise,” he said.

Mr Priestley said the residents of the tent city had been scattered across Sydney and beyond; some would camp in friends’ backyards, others in a safe house on the Central Coast, others in temporary accommodation.

And while some had also chosen to go back to the streets, he said the camp’s message had been heard.

“I think, unequivocally, we have gotten our point across,” he said.

“But this is only the beginning of the conversation. There’s a lot of work to do going forward from this and it’s ours to make or break.

“There’s a much wider discussion than homelessness that needs to be resolved. We need affordable housing for everyone.”

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