Tauranga City Council bylaw bans begging and rough sleeping near shops

Author
Samantha Motion, NZ Herald,
Section
National,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 13 June 2018, 12:15PM
Councillor Terry Molloy and Brian Berry of Downtown Tauranga. (Photo / John Borren)
Councillor Terry Molloy and Brian Berry of Downtown Tauranga. (Photo / John Borren)

Begging and rough sleeping will be banned within 5m of any Tauranga retail or hospitality premises under a proposed council bylaw.

Against the advice of council legal staff who said it could prove to be "unenforceable", Tauranga City Council's Community and Culture Committee yesterday voted 6-2 for the ban.

Councillor Terry Molloy said the intent was to target the issues caused by begging and rough sleeping, not the people themselves, and the council would continue to support initiatives to help the homeless.

The ban will be included in the draft Street Use and Public Places Bylaw, which will go out for consultation later this year.

Council community services manager Phillip King said the council could only enforce the ban through a court prosecution - there was no fine or other prescribed punishment.

The committee's decision was welcomed by Brian Berry of Downtown Tauranga and Sally Benning of Greerton Mainstreet, who told councillors the impacts of begging were still hitting their members - especially solo operator businesses - hard.

Benning teared up as she spoke about increasing customer complaints and the "intimidating" atmosphere large groups of people loitering and begging were creating in the village.

She said "major businesses" had closed their doors and other retailers were threatening to end their leases. People's incomes and life savings were on the line.

"Many of the retailers are just over it. They are asked to phone this number, phone that number, phone the police, phone [the council]. It's taking up a huge amount of time."

Berry said in the past week alone, he'd personally had several intimidating run-ins with people who appeared homeless.

One stared at him for 40 minutes while he dined outside at a downtown restaurant, another "got aggressive" when he tried to move him on from couches in the cinema.

Berry said the bylaw wording agreed yesterday was an improvement on what he described as a "toothless" ban on aggressive forms of begging the committee voted to support last month on the advice of council staff.

Lead council policy planner Melony Atkins said staff stood by their advice not to expand the bylaw because it would likely not stand up in court, could raise Bill of Rights issues and would not fix homelessness in Tauranga.

Michael Sharp, of the Tauranga Housing Advocacy Trust, said he was disappointed with the committee's decision.

Begging and rough sleeping were symptoms of bigger issues, including a lack of housing, and a bylaw would do nothing to treat those root causes, he said.

He said there was "scant evidence" of any serious problem with people in Tauranga being intimidated by beggars.

Councillors Steve Morris and Leanne Brown voted against the bylaw.

Morris said it was well-intentioned but pointless.

"We are giving people false hope that this will solve the issue and it won't because it's unenforceable."

Mayor Greg Brownless, who supported the bylaw, said a zero tolerance approach was needed.

"We live in a very namby-pamby age. You can't do this, you can't do that, you can't offend anyone. I don't want this place to become security guard city, and that is what it's approaching."


How they voted

For the bylaw: Greg Brownless, Kelvin Clout, Terry Molloy, Larry Baldock, Catherine Stewart, Bill Grainger

Against: Steve Morris, Leanne Brown


Expanded begging bylaw

- No person shall beg in a public place in a manner that is likely to cause intimidation, harassment, alarm or distress to any reasonable person
- No person shall beg within 5m of a retail or hospitality premises
- No person shall rough sleep within 5m of a retail or hospitality premises

Rough sleeping is defined as sleeping on the streets, pavements and anywhere other than in approved accommodation, with the exception of where the council has given approval.

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