Gordon Robinson doesn't beg aggressively. He just leaves an empty soft drink cup next to his folded legs.

But on a good day that cup can scoop up to $120. The money is vital to Robinson who said he doesn't collect a benefit due to his lack of ID.

The Gisborne-born man has been on the streets for six years. After he was trespassed from Queen St for carrying a stanley knife, which he said he uses to butter bread and cut chicken, he's moved up a side road.

But Robinson might not be there for too much longer if CBD retailers get their way.

Advertisement
Homeless man Gordon Robinson doesn't think banning begging will work. Photo / Sarah Harris
Homeless man Gordon Robinson doesn't think banning begging will work. Photo / Sarah Harris

Following aggressive behaviour of the city's homeless and sketchy use of synthetic cannabis Heart of the City is renewing its push to rid the CBD of beggars.

It wants increased police presence, stricter amendments to the Public Nuisance Bylaw and stating it would amp up CityWatch - a team responsible for managing antisocial behaviour.

Eight people have died so far this month from synthetic cannabis, the latest a 24-year-old man who died this week after becoming seriously ill from smoking the drug.

A drug counsellor says the effects of synthetic cannabis can be worse than meth, with users kept up for days and sometimes being driven into psychosis.

Robinson is a regular synthetic cannabis user. He admitted that some people go "funky chicken" on it, but he said he just gets a good buzz and passes out.

Some beggars acting aggressively were ruining it for the rest of them. He said it would be unfair to punish them all. Instead he wanted council to call a meeting with "the old streeties" and collaborate one what they could do next.

"A ban is unfair but some are doing it [begging] in the wrong way.

"They make big messes, smoking synthetic cannabis outside their shops, munging out. It's not a good look."

Even if the ban was enforced Robinson didn't think the beggars would listen because you can make good coin around the CBD.

Businesses are calling for something to be done about city-centre begging. Photo / Duncan Brown
Businesses are calling for something to be done about city-centre begging. Photo / Duncan Brown

Out of the 300 businesses that responded to a Heart of the City survey on begging, 93 per cent wanted more done to prevent it.

Avondale was one of the first to bring down the heavy hand on beggars. Three months ago it put up "begging is banned" notices after some shops were close to closure with beggars allegedly ruining business.

Now their streets are empty, Avondale Business Association chairman Duncan MacDonald said.

He believed retailers had the right to a clear entrance and shop front. If beggars moved further on to the footpath they were an obstruction.

"At any one time we had around a dozen in our little strip. They were just a plague.

"I threw them out of town."

Heart of the City chief executive Viv Beck was concerned with aggressive, and antisocial behaviour from the city's homeless and beggars. She wanted the bylaw amended so the terms "antisocial behaviour" and "obstruction" were more clearly defined and easier to enforce.

"I saw someone unable to walk, I've heard of people vomiting. People in different states as they come out of the effects of synthetic cannabis, aggressive yelling.

"The bylaw can only do so much. Really it's about managing antisocial behaviour."

In June Napier Mayor Bill Dalton called for action to address the growing begging problem in the city.

Beck acknowledged begging was a complex issue and said Heart of the City wanted to find sustainable long term solutions like offering job opportunities to the homeless.

"People do care. I don't hear people saying they want to brush it under the carpet.

"But equally we have people's livelihoods and hardwon great perceptions of a positive city at stake. We have to take heed of this feedback."

Beck said the CityWatch team would increase its presence from this week and police were "positive" in their conversations about resources in the CBD.

Begging is not illegal, unless it is done in a way that intimidates or causes a nuisance, Auckland City Council bylaws and compliance manager Max Wilde said.

Social enterprise could be the key to get beggars off the streets, Lifewise chief executive Moira Lawler said.

"We must also bear in mind the fact that not all homeless people beg, and not all who beg are homeless.

"Rough sleeping and street begging are two separate problems and although there are ways in which the two are related, a begging ban will not address the issue."

On average 88 beggars were found breaching the bylaw each month over 2015 - 2016.

Wilde said council was undertaking a review of the bylaw.

"We have had regular feedback about how begging is managed in the CBD, which will be considered as part of the review.

"In cases where people are in breach of the bylaw, the council takes a graduated enforcement approach, which focuses on advice and education in the first instance."

Council's Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw was adopted in May 2014 and specifically covers begging, stating that a person must not use a public place to beg in a manner that may intimidate or cause a nuisance. The intent of the bylaw is not to ban begging.