Don't give money to beggars - that will be the message of a public education programme expected to be rolled out in Tauranga next week.

Tauranga City Council is starting the "your help may harm" programme after an incident in Greerton on Thursday evening where a fight broke out and shop windows were broken.

Some blamed the incident on beggars or homeless people.

However, police now say the person allegedly responsible for smashing the windows in Greerton was neither a beggar nor homeless.


Inspector Clifford Paxton, Western Bay police area commander, said a female had been arrested and charged with wilful damage.

He said police were seeing instances of people "loosely" describing offenders as beggars or homeless when they might be neither.

While begging was not a crime in Tauranga, Paxton said people should call the police if they felt anyone was deliberately threatening, alarming, insulting or offending them in the street.

Police were working with the council and other groups to address community concerns around begging, he said.

The council's community services manager, Phillip King, told a council committee meeting yesterday that beggars were here because people were willing to give them money.

"The tap needs to be turned off."

The council was working with Mainstreet retailers on the education programme, which was based on ones used by other councils.

It would include signage, and a 0800 number people could call for information about services available to homeless or hungry people.

Meanwhile, councillors have pushed for faster progress on a proposed bylaw banning begging and rough sleeping in the city.

Council staff have estimated that it could take until December 2018 to enact the new piece of legislation, but councillors said that was too long.

Policy planner Melony Atkins said consultation on the Use of Public Places Bylaw would begin this week and the committee would see a report on the options on May 8.

She said a little time might be shaved off the end of the process, but new legislation needed to be able to withstand legal scrutiny and the proper process was required.