Tauranga shop owners relieved at bylaw banning begging

8:51 am on 21 November 2018

Tauranga shop owners say they are relieved the city council's ban on begging has passed its final hurdle.

Councillor Terry Molloy (glasses).

Councillor Terry Molloy (glasses). Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

A bylaw banning beggars and rough sleepers within five metres of shops in the central business districts of Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Greerton was passed yesterday - but only just.

In a fierce council debate, some councillors called the bylaw an embarrassment and an empty promise but others said it was the best solution.

Councillor Steve Morris was one of five to vote against the bylaw.

"It's going to make some councillors look good, but it's going to do nothing for them."

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Councillor John Robson called the begging ban embarrassing.

"Insisting that we clear the streets when those people have nowhere to go is treating those people like waste. There's no good reason for this."

But they were losing arguments - six councillors backed the bylaw, meaning it passed by a single vote.

It had been put forward by councillor Terry Molloy, who said the result was a win for Tauranga.

Beggars and rough sleepers had hurt businesses and caused problems for the community, Mr Molloy said.

He was confident the ban would improve the situation and if it did not, he promised to resign.

"I feel strongly about how it's affecting our wider community. I feel very strongly about how it's affecting those that are less fortunate and I have been working at both ends of this problem."

RNZ spoke to retail workers in Greerton, Many described physical altercations, harassment and abuse from beggars.

Raghbir Kaur owns the $2 Shop.

Raghbir Kaur owns the $2 Shop. Photo: RNZ / Katie Scotcher

They were all confident the ban would solve the problem.

Raghbir Kaur owns a $2 Shop. She said beggars affected her business and she had been left feeling helpless.

"[Homeless people] ask for money and customers don't like it, they complain to me about it.

"I can't do anything with them I have no right to say anything to them."

Sapan Shah runs the Greerton Food Market. He hoped the ban would make customers feel safe again.

"People do not stop here because when they walk in with the kids they are not feeling comfortable and safe so they're going other places and not coming here."

Sacha Williams used to live on the streets in Tauranga and said there was no need for the ban.

"I've spent a lot of time in Greerton. I've seen the odd spaz out, but no, I don't know what they're talking about personally."

Social policy analyst for the Salvation Army, Alan Johnson, told Morning Report the ban won't solve the problem but just move it elsewhere.

"Just shifting people down the road further marginalises many of these people."

He said while homeless people in the city may be a problem for customers and shopkeepers the response needs to be what's best for homeless people, working alongside them.

"Not every homeless person's a beggar and not every beggar's a homeless person," he said.

He said if someone asks for money on the streets giving them food or assistance with transport rather than cash is the best way to help.

The new bylaw will be enforced from April next year.

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