What Busking Boom?

Bus Tunnel Studios – the issues

A Busker’s Viewpoint on the previous post, about an alleged boom in the number of buskers in Wellington.

by Mark G. Hayes

There is no Boom in Buskers, they are Bludgers trying to cover their backs. Begging is Not Entertainment at all. There should be a Pan-Handlers Licence, limiting Beggers to the same time limit at buskers. WCC should remain to be fair to all buskers. Even those musicians who are not able to defend themselves.

It appears that the focus has shifted to how much of a racket all these buskers are making and the impact on shopkeepers. There are about 40 more people applied for a busking permit in the past year.
Bus if the Councilor Paul Eagle was to leave the office for a stroll down Lampton Quay each lunchtime, to count how many people are actually busking in some way, and how many sit down face down just begging. There are at least four times more people begging than there are buskers now. Many beggers are getting a buskers permit from WCC to give some respectability to what they are doing. Not just buskers, but many entertainers of all sorts find it insulting.

No matter how low the skill level may be, nor learning to adjust the volume levels, as a bus drowns out everything, but buskers are giving something of their heart to entertain people. That is part of what makes Wellington unique and cool. Busking is uplifting even when challenging protest singers, like a stage I also went through. On the other hand beggers are there to bring everybody down to such a low level that they make us slaves to sympathy. A busker is honest and you can see what you are paying for.
What some of the hard line shop-keepers sometimes forget is the first impressions all the tourists get is on our street. Buskers or Bludgers. While many beggers have genuine need, a few are out of control and occupy only the best money making spots, sometimes intimidating all other beggers and buskers alike.

Some fancy shopkeepers refuse to even look at the issue on their doorstep, because they make no noise. There is a matter of dignity as well. There are all sorts of complex issues like the Living wage at work here. Why has there been an explosion in the number of beggers in the past two years?


What I am calling for is a clear solution to this growing problem. Auckland and Christchurch have banned begging in the streets so many are in transit and are doing fine without a benefit, smoking and drinking. Wellington is more liberal but should not be so badly taken for a fool.

The introduction of a Pan-Handlers Licence will stipulate rules that apply to people begging on the street, standing up and being cheerful and sitting down with or without a sign. Pan-Handlers should not be allowed to occupy 1 location all day. It would be fair if beggers and buskers are given an equal footing, so some do not dominate.

This applies to Lampton Quay as it does to Cuba Street and all the way to Bay Road in Kilbirnie.

I have been busking since 1979 and in 1980 Sir Piggy Muldoon threw out the anti-soap-box-communist prohibition on busking. Later in 2000 and 2001 I also made submissions to the WCC in the consultation process

One final point about the bus noise and what is permitted to be the background noise. We look forward to the speedy introduction of the next generation of hybrid bus public transport. Electric bus and there is not such a need for the amplifier. While it is sad to see the trolley bus fleet go, if it is still electric it should be quiet.

Can the Bus fleet be asked to train their bus drivers not to make full noise when they move in the central city and suburban shopping zones. This would go a long way to reducing the shopkeepers noise problems. They are just misguided directing the problem at the buskers. Shopkeepers are allowed to argue for their dam point, if it makes financial sense or not.

Council was very good in 2001 at finding a compromise to the shopkeepers demanding buskers only be allowed 30 minutes. I have enough gear that I would finish the sound check and have only 2 songs then I would have to pack up. I have confidence that again WCC will find a good compromise solution again.

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