The State Government will introduce new laws targeting homeless people in the city centre in a move to dismantle the tent city in Martin Place.
In a move described as heavy-handed, Premier Gladys Berejikilian will introduce legislation this week which will give NSW Police powers to remove homeless people from Crown Land in the City of Sydney where it is deemed there are 'unacceptable impacts on the public'.
“Homelessness is a major challenge in our community and I am proud of our government’s record to help our most vulnerable and of course there is more to do,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“However, we will not let protestors play political games with those in genuine need of support," she said.
“The government is putting an end to council’s refusal to act and will strengthen laws to ensure it does not happen again.”
The bill will empower police to remove people or goods from Martin Place, and other public reserves in the City of Sydney.
If anyone was to get hurt or get raped during the move, it will be the responsibility of the government
Lord Mayor Clover Moore condemned the move claiming the government had already committed to creating a safe space.
"All they need to do to resolve this situation peacefully is to work with us on an interim solution," Cr Moore said.
"Instead, the Premier is moving to change the law, potentially setting up the risk of violent conflicts between police and vulnerable homeless people."
Cr Moore said she had spoken with the Premier and city staff had talked with departmental staff about providing a facility for an interim solution.
"We encourage the State Government and Wayside to make an application urgently so it can be assessed and determined, and for the government to refrain from sending in police until the safe space is operational."
The future of residents of the tent city remains uncertain.
The so-called Mayor of Martin Place Lanz Priestley, who acts as a spokesman for the residents, is unsure of the government's next step.
“If anyone was to get hurt or get raped during the move, it will be the responsibility of the government, especially since they are funding the Safe Space,” Mr Priestley said.
Housing Services NSW is currently setting up temporary accommodation for the homeless people in Martin Place.
Tarek, a member of the tent city for the past two months, has been provided with temporary accommodation for the next seven days.
"I don’t know what will happen after that,” he said.
Sydney Independent MP Alex Greenwich said the incident had brought attention to housing affordability on a national scale and this needed to be addressed.
"While having homeless people in the middle of the city is confronting, it shows the scale of the problem and the only real solution is more low cost housing, including wrap-around housing that provides ongoing support to vulnerable people."
"Meanwhile there are over 100 homes in Millers Point and Sirius sitting empty waiting for sale," Mr Greenwich said.
Homelessness Australia has revealed there has been a 20.4% increase in homelessness since 2006, with 28,190 people currently homeless in NSW.
City of Sydney's last street count recorded 433 people sleeping rough across the city – and there are about 58,000 people on waiting lists for social housing.