Tauranga City Council has voted to look into a bylaw banning begging and rough sleeping in city centres.
In a meeting on Tuesday, councillors voted in favour of Terry Molloy's motion to have council staff investigate a bylaw and report back on November 27.
A group of a half-dozen or so protesters sat through the meeting with protest signs.
One protester, Kevin England, spoke out in frustration after the unanimous vote.
"I think you should be ashamed of yourselves," he called to councillors.
"They're people. They're surviving."
Councillors were split on whether they would vote in favour of adopting a bylaw or not, and how - or if - the council would actively enforce a bylaw if one was adopted.
Some referenced the work already being done by social service groups in the city, as well as the prospect of a "housing first" project expected to come to Tauranga.
They expressed hope that, between those services, the city could soon be confident that rough sleepers would have somewhere to go.
"By the time the bylaw comes into force the genuinely homeless will have a place to go. If they are not genuine they will be asked to move on," Molloy said.
He emphasised his motion, which came after a survey of downtown retailers, was as much about making sure there was no need in the city for rough sleeping or begging, as it was about protecting the business community from beggars behaving badly.
Bill Grainger said the council was not there to "kick aside" the genuinely homeless.
He intended that any bylaw would direct staff to work with social agencies to find a solution as a first response.
Larry Baldock said he would probably vote for a bylaw.
He had "no qualms" about banning begging, saying it was a "curse" that would grow if left unchecked.
On rough sleepers, he said Tauranga's nice climate made it attractive - unlike colder places like Europe - and he believed a "low level bylaw" would send a message it was not acceptable in New Zealand to have people sleeping in the streets.
Steve Morris and Catherine Stewart both said they would likely not support a bylaw, having reservations about whether it would be effective.
Morris was not keen to see the council "virtue signalling" by introducing a bylaw it did not intend to enforce.