Hunting for a dollar on Queen St

By Mathew Dearnaley

Regular buskers on Queen Street. Photo / Dean Purcell
Regular buskers on Queen Street. Photo / Dean Purcell

Buskers, beggars, bucket-shakers - and a saintly young man called John simply wanting to tell his fellow Aucklanders they are "perfect" - Queen St has them all.

An online Herald discussion thread asking if there are too many people angling for money along the Golden Mile drew almost 200 comments yesterday, most saying there are.

Auckland Council is about to consider submissions on a draft bylaw providing for penalties of up to $20,000 for people using public places to wilfully "obstruct, disturb or interfere with any other person in their use or enjoyment of that public place".

A 90-minute Herald survey of street life early yesterday afternoon turned up eight buskers, seven beggars, seven charity workers and a sketch artist.

One who eluded any category was John, found sitting quietly at the corner of Queen St and Victoria St with a placard in his lap which said "You're perfect".

He was not asking for money, but appeared to be conducting an experiment along the lines of an overseas artist who was trying to make a positive difference to street life.

Actor Jordan Mooney believed he was helping make Queen St "a more colourful" place. That involved standing for hours on end as a frozen character from New Zealand's mining history with lamp and a blackened face.

Unlike John, he was doing a lucrative trade judging by about $15 in coins collected in a small pan beside him.

Homeless man Alan Hamilton, squatting with sparse coins in a towel on his lap, disagreed that New Zealand was "over-welfared".

He said that because he did not have a physical address, instead sleeping outdoors since being laid off because of health problems, he could not qualify for a benefit.

Despite usually managing to raise enough money to eat, he said he could not afford medication for diabetes and a heart condition.

Mr Hamilton, 49, said the police and council officials generally left him alone.

A council spokesman said it was one of about 10 agencies, including the police and welfare groups, working on a 10-year strategy for dealing with homelessness.

At present, street entertainers must obtain free permits limiting their playing time at any one site to 60 minutes, and ensuring they are not too noisy or repetitive, and charity collectors are not allowed to operate without membership of organisations which rosters their street presence.

The Public Fundraising Regulatory Association says its 25 charity members signed up 63,000 people last year while receiving just seven complaints.

General manager Karen Ward said it welcomed contact with the public through its website www.pfra.org.nz.

Heart of the City business association chief Alex Swney said the association appeared to be doing a good job as he rarely found an overlap of collectors.

But he believed any caring New Zealander would consider even one beggar on the streets to be too many.

Rules for the street

Beggars: regulated by the police, but soon to come under a council bylaw prohibiting obstruction in public places.

Buskers: must obtain council licence, free of charge, governing noise levels, performance times and variety of repertoire.

Charity collectors: must belong to an industry association which rosters their numbers to ensure there are not too many on the streets at any one time.

Read more: Are there too many people asking for money on Queen St?

- NZ Herald

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