Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has been invited to meet people who help the homeless after expressing support for the city's proposed begging and rough sleeping ban.
At a public meeting in Mount Maunganui this afternoon the National Party leader was asked his thoughts on what could be done about homelessness and to help retailers in Greerton.
Bridges said he had talked to business owners and had seen first hand the "desperate daily reality" of those dealing with the effects of begging and rough sleeping on the vibrant community.
He said Tauranga City Council had been "far, far too soft" on the issue.
"They should pass the bylaw and make sure its implemented and enforce it."
In June the council approved for consultation a bylaw banning begging and rough sleeping will be banned within 5m of any retail or hospitality premises.
A court prosecution was the only way to ultimately enforce the ban.
Council legal experts warned that if it ever went that far, they bylaw would likely prove unenforceable.
Bridges said the council should have its officers to enforce the ban but stopped short of saying that should happen through the courts.
"I'm not suggesting we should be making victims out of them. We need to be compassionate. There's a range of support the Government can provide to those who are genuinely homeless.
"My understanding is a similar bylaw has worked pretty well, not without exception, in Nelson and Hamilton."
Tania Lewis-Rickard, director of food charity Kai Aroha and organiser of a protest march against the bylaw, said Bridges' support for the bylaw was not helpful or "solution focused".
"It's easy for him to say that sitting where he sits. He's not at street level like the rest of us, walking in their shoes."
She said she would like to see him come along to a meeting of the Community Angels, a group dedicated to finding solutions to homelessness issues in Tauranga.
Bridges said he was open to that.
Tauranga-based Labour list MP Jan Tinetti said she also supported the bylaw, on the condition it really could deliver the wraparound support for people the council had promised.
"As long as its not about shame and blame, and they try to come up with solutions to help them out."
Tauranga's deputy mayor Kelvin Clout was among the 400 plus people at Bridges' meeting.
He said he agreed the council had taken a "softly, softly approach" to the issue at first.
"Now we have got a bylaw which, although imperfect, sends a strong message that we as a council want to address this issue."
Clout said enforcement "was an issue" but he thought that, to start, it would mean enforcement officers approaching people in breach of the bylaw and informing them of that fact, as well as any services that could help them.
"Hopefully they will get the message."
Begging bylaw: time running out to have your say
Tauranga City Council is seeking feedback on its draft Street Use and Public Places Bylaw, which includes the begging and rough sleeping ban.
Submissions close on August 2.
For more information visit the council's website.