Napier fumes over beggars travelling from Hastings

By Anneke Smith -
Homeless people preparing to sleep the night in a Napier City Council bus depot. PHOTO / WARREN BUCKLAND
Homeless people preparing to sleep the night in a Napier City Council bus depot. PHOTO / WARREN BUCKLAND

Beggars are travelling from Hastings to cash in on the kindness of Napier's residents to fuel their alcohol, drug and gambling habits, according to the Napier City Council.

This week the council joined forces with several organisations to launch a campaign to discourage begging on the streets of Napier after receiving daily complaints about the issue, Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said.

He said there was no question that the intentions of beggars were calculated and urged the public to put their money towards resources for those genuinely struggling to make ends meet.

"They tend to work in groups, sharing their proceeds and then proceeding to buy alcohol and drugs, and gambling," he said.

"Giving to beggars is, in essence, directly supporting drug use, aggression, and crime in our beautiful city."

Mr Dalton said the Napier City Council received complaints on a daily basis that often involved aggressive behaviour towards shopkeepers, people trying to move beggars along and staff around the city.

"Of course it's a safety issue in terms of aggression but it's also not a good look or feel to walk down the street and see people begging."

Napier City Business Inc manager Zoe Barnes said she hoped the campaign would bring some welcome relief to retailers who were "exhausted" from regularly dealing with harassment in the CBD.

"We're grateful for the fresh focus on this issue and are very keen to help re-educate our community on the realities of begging. We understand how tempting it is to give a few dollars to people on the street, but there are far better ways to give, for good," she said.

"I would just like to see this cleaned up for the feel of the city," Mr Dalton said.

Hawke's Bay police sergeant Nigel Hurley said there had previously been begging incidents in Hastings but the problem was predominately centred in Napier.

Mr Hurley said while most beggars in Napier were Napier residents, some Hastings residents were begging on Napier streets also.

When asked why Napier was the begging epicentre of Hawke's Bay, Mr Hurley said it was due to the generosity of the public.

"The people of Napier are very generous that's why ... the word has got around that people give good tips in Napier."

Mr Hurley said police had been issuing warnings to people seen with illegal substances or at gambling sites just days after begging on the streets.

Salvation Army Napier corps officer major Alister Irwin said he believed the services available to those struggling to make ends meet in Hawke's Bay meant begging wasn't necessary.

"There are enough services available but, having said that, all services would also say that we could do better with more funding and personnel," he said.

"They are prying on the generosity of Napier people."

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