Herald 'beggar' test shows street people moved on before new bylaw begins

By Steve Deane

Steve Deane was told to leave after about 80 minutes. Photo / Dean Purcell
Steve Deane was told to leave after about 80 minutes. Photo / Dean Purcell

A bylaw giving council officers the power to evict beggars will not come into effect until April or May next year, but a Weekend Herald investigation has found that beggars are already being forced out of prime locations.

A Weekend Herald reporter posing as a beggar on Thursday received $26 and a coffee from members of the public in about 80 minutes, before being forced to leave a location near the Britomart transport precinct. A security guard employed by Auckland Transport informed the reporter that begging wasn't allowed there and that police would be called if he didn't leave immediately.

An Auckland Transport spokesman said the location was covered by a glass canopy and as such was part of the Britomart transport precinct.

"There are a large number of people coming and going throughout the day because of the high number of bus movements nearby, hence we aim to keep the area clear for access and safety reasons," he said. "The security guards are tasked with the job of keeping the Britomart Transport precinct free of congestion and ask buskers, street vendors, collectors, skateboarders, couriers, etc to move on."

A beggar was operating at the site when the Weekend Herald returned yesterday.

Auckland City Mission chief executive Diane Robertson said the reporter's eviction was probably unlawful. "If you weren't doing anything wrong I don't believe they are entitled to do that," she said.

"If you are just sitting passively I don't think anybody can (move you on). You could have said 'you've got no right to do that' and stood there. But if the police came by then they could say you were causing a public nuisance (by arguing with the security guard).

"You may be within your rights, but you wouldn't have been able to uphold them. Powerless people don't get to uphold their rights."

The Public Safety and Nuisance bylaw, which gives council officers more powers to deal with beggars, had not been signed off and wouldn't come into effect until April or May next year, councillor Mike Lee said.

The bylaw was not a "beggar ban" as it only related to beggars who were acting in an intimidating manner or being a nuisance, Mr Lee said. "No one is going to be pulled off the street. It is not going to be that way."

- NZ Herald

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