Auckland housing estate ponders $70,000/year surveillance cameras

A new upmarket Auckland waterfront area is investigating installing surveillance cameras mounted high above their houses to spy on criminals.

At Tuesday night’s Hobsonville Point Residents Society annual general meeting, members debated the costs, effectiveness and practicality of installing a private sophisticated Wi-Fi camera system at the Point, where 4000 new homes are being built.

Residents had already voted to contribute to a new weekend ferry scheme.

Read more: DIY public transport: Hobsonville Point residents partially fund new weekend ferries

But Thomas Beagle, Council for Civil Liberties chairman, has concerns.

“There’s a danger in this because who has access to the information, what are they using it for and how long do they plan to keep it? People do abuse these things. For example, studies in the UK showed people using surveillance cameras tend to monitor large-breasted women more than anyone else. People sitting there watching these things are bored,” Beagle said.

But if the system proposed at Hobsonville was used by appropriately trained people for appropriate reasons, he would have fewer concerns, he said.

“But one would want to know much more about it,” Beagle said.

Society was generally in agreement that security cameras were OK, he said.

Caroline McDowell, Hobsonville Point project director, said she did not know of any other Auckland suburb where such private security systems operated.

But at this stage, discussion was around a five-year trial and no decision had been reached, she stressed.

“This has been a work in progress for quite a while with concerns from the community around minor car break-ins. Discussions were around looking to put in surveillance protecting construction sites and did it make sense to work together?” she said of a proposal for the development business to work with residents to fight crime.

Privacy would not be invaded if the scheme went ahead as proposed, she said, because discussion was around placing the cameras only at main intersections, “not pointing into anyone’s home”.

Footage of offenders could be provided to police and one resident said the issue arose after a number of cars were broken into, stolen and residents suffered other problems.

Two society members had already investigated the scheme and reported to Tuesday’s meeting that it was “hugely more complicated than first thought”, the resident said.

CCTV cameras are being debated for a new Auckland waterfront area. Photo/Bevan Conley
CCTV cameras are being debated for a new Auckland waterfront area. Photo/Bevan Conley

“They said they needed to gather more information and recommended a vote take place at a later meeting. Residents agreed,” he added.

All the cameras would need to connect to a radio mast and have line-of-sight contact with that mast. But so far, no commercial business had agreed to host the mast, he said.

There were also complications with Chorus connecting the cameras to the local UFB fibre broadband network and questions were raised over whether police would be willing or able to doing anything with images collected by the camera network anyway, the local said.

Ongoing annual costs were estimated to be around $70,000 a year, in addition to a steep initial setup cost.

“There was no debate over privacy issues, though possibly that was because people broadly accepted more info was needed before further discussion and a vote,” the local said.

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