Simon Bridges says Tauranga council 'too soft' on city's homeless

Long Lunch 24/07/2018
Photo: Getty.

A bylaw that would ban begging and sleeping rough in Tauranga has been backed by National Party leader and local MP Simon Bridges.

The bylaw would prosecute a homeless person caught sleeping or begging within five metres of any retail space in Tauranga.

Mr Bridges claims the Tauranga City Council has been “far, far too soft” on the city’s homelessness issue, he told a public gathering in the city.

But Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless says opinions are mixed.

“We’ve got people telling us we’re being too hard by even thinking of introducing a bylaw,” he told RadioLIVE’s Wendyl Nissen.

“We’ve got some people arguing and some prominent lawyers arguing that we’re breaching the bill of rights by restricting their freedom to express themselves. I don’t agree with that – but it just gives you an idea of what we’re up against.

“The other thing is too that if you do shift them on, or the police do, under this new bylaw where do they go? So it’s just not quite as simple as it might appear.

If the ban is introduced, it would go against advice by council staff which said it would only be enforceable by court action.

But Mr Bridges, a former Crown prosecutor, says council could find a way to enforce it.

"[Council] should pass it and make sure it's implemented and enforce it.

"My understanding is a similar bylaw has worked pretty well, not without exception, in Nelson and Hamilton."

In June, councillors voted 6-2 to add a "begging ban" into the draft Street Use and Public Spaces bylaw, which is going out for consultation.

The proposed bylaw was met with protest with one group suggesting the council needs to rethink their plan.

"If you take something away from someone you have to replace it with something else, and that something hasn't been put in place yet,” said protest organiser Tania Lewis-Rickard

Listen to the full interview with Greg Brownless above.

The Long Lunch with Wendyl Nissen, 12pm - 3pm on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.