Tauranga Mayor says begging ban isn’t perfect, but it’s ‘a step’

The AM Show 21/11/2018

Tauranga Mayor Greg Brownless says the city’s new ban on begging near shops is necessary to deal with what he calls a "reasonably serious problem".

On Tuesday afternoon, the Tauranga City Council voted in support of a new bylaw that outlaws begging and rough sleeping near retail and hospitality sites.

According to the bylaw, which was voted in six to five, begging and rough sleeping won't be allowed within five metres of shops in the central business districts of Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Greerton.

Mr Brownless said the ban was necessary to help shopkeepers with encouraging customers.

"A number of people are trying to earn a living in the CBD and in Greerton with shops, and they find that the presence of people begging for money, sometimes aggressively, sometime pleasantly... outside the shops deters people. Also, if people decide to rough sleep in the doorways, that also deters people," he told The AM Show on Wednesday.

He admits the ban isn't perfect, and said health and safety laws limit what the council can do to help beggars and rough sleepers.

"A mayor in an American city had put on a van, which he got a staff member to drive around every morning picking up beggars offering them work in a park... but of course in New Zealand our laws around that and occupational health and safety just prevent doing any practical solutions unfortunately," he told The AM Show.

Mayor Greg Brownless has defended the council's decision.

He did not go into detail about what laws would prevent helping homeless, however.

Mr Brownless said more practical solutions would be "great", but "guess who would be prosecuted for an offence... it would be me or the council. That's the ridiculous extent we have got to in this country"

"You look for positive solutions, but in the back of your mind... that's a very real concern nowadays".

While the bylaw will come into force from April next year, no additional money had been allocated to its enforcement.

Mr Brownless said there were already bylaw officers working with the beggars and rough sleepers, and he would work with the existing budget rather than adding to it.

He said it was difficult to know the exact number of beggars on the street but estimated it would be about "30 or so".

In November 2017, a headcount found 70 people were sleeping rough on the streets of Tauranga, reports NZME.

Terry Molloy, the councillor who proposed to ban, said he would resign if the ban didn't stop supposed problems that beggars and rough sleepers are having on businesses, reports RNZ.

"I feel strongly about how it's affecting our wider community and 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," Mr Molloy said.

But other councillors were vehemently against the ban, with Councillor John Robson calling it embarrassing.

"We shouldn't be in this place. What we should be doing is providing... facilities for the victims of central government policy and providing and giving them somewhere to go," he said.

Watch the full interview with Greg Brownless above.

The AM Show with Duncan Garner, Amanda Gillies and Mark Richardson, weekdays 6-9am on RadioLIVE and streaming live to the rova app on Android and iPhone.