Tauranga's mayor was forced to use his casting vote to make controversial council calls on rough sleeping and CBD parking.
In a special council meeting yesterday, Mayor Greg Brownless swayed two evenly split votes in favour of continued investigations into a ban on rough sleeping (alongside begging) and to block a bid to increase all-day parking charges in the CBD.
Councillors were divided on whether they should keep looking into banning rough sleeping in public places, but voted unanimously to pursue investigating a ban on begging and working with other groups to address homelessness in Tauranga.
Both investigations will happen as part of a review of the council's Street Use and Public Places bylaw next year.
After the parking price increase was voted down the council decided to put a hold on the two most controversial parking changes until they had feedback and ideas from Tauranga Mainstreet.
The price rise would have seen eight daytime hours of on-street parking more than double from $12 ($2 per hour for 9am-3pm) to $34 ($2 per hour for first two hours, $5 p/h thereafter), and getting rid of free weekday parking after 3pm - measures intended to get commuters' vehicles out of the city centre to make room for shoppers and visitors.
In the meeting to hear the begging and rough sleeping ban debate were several volunteers with a community group that runs twice-weekly Milo nights for Tauranga's homeless.
Tracey Carlton, one of the instigators of the Milo nights - which have been giving hot drinks and homemade food to Tauranga's needy every Monday and Friday for four months - said she was against a ban on rough sleeping.
She called on the council to give homeless people a voice in the debate.
The Katikati-born woman said it had been a shock to return home from overseas and see people sleeping on cardboard in Tauranga's streets, but believed New Zealand was a progressive country capable of a compassionate response.
A Milo night regular, who asked not to be named, told the Bay of Plenty Times she did not think banning begging or rough sleeping would do any good.
"It will just make it harder. They will just go and break into places and steal things to survive.
"If I was in that situation I would do that if I had to. It's easier that than losing my life."
She said she had been homeless before - sleeping rough under bridges and having no food for "days on end".
She and her two children - a toddler and a 6-week-old baby - were now staying in emergency housing.
In yesterday's meeting, several councillors said a ban on either begging or rough sleeping was not a silver bullet. It would only be one more tool in the toolbox for people trying to tackle homelessness in Tauranga and the priority would remain on finding people homes.
Terry Molloy - whose notice of motion launched the council into rapid action - said it was not about "kicking people when they are down".
How they voted
To keep looking into banning rough sleeping:
Greg Brownless (+ additional casting vote), Max Mason, Bill Grainger, Terry Molloy, Larry Baldock
Against: Kelvin Clout, Leanne Brown, Catherine Stewart, Rick Curach, Steve Morris.
To change city centre parking to $2 per hour for first two hours, $5 thereafter:
For: Kelvin Clout, Leanne Brown, Terry Molloy, Max Mason, Steve Morris
Against: Greg Brownless (+ additional casting vote), Larry Baldock, Catherine Steward, Rick Curach, Bill Grainger.
Absent: Gail McIntosh.