A council committee has voted down proposals to ban begging and rough sleeping within 10m of a retail outlet in Tauranga.
Instead, the Tauranga City Council's community and culture committee yesterday approved a ban on aggressive types of begging.
They voted five to one to prohibit "begging in a manner that is likely to cause intimidation, harassment, alarm or distress to any reasonable person" in public places citywide.
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The language would be added to the council's Street Use and Public Places Bylaw, a draft of which was signed off for public consultation.
The ban was described as "valueless" and "empty words" by councillor Terry Molloy, who said intentionally intimidating behaviour was already a crime.
The ban would not apply, for example, to someone sitting passively outside a shop with a cup and a sign asking for money.
The committee also agreed to continue to support local social initiatives to address homelessness and begging.
Molloy, whose proposed 10m ban was supported only by Larry Baldock, approved of the social initiatives but said the ban the committee agreed to would have no impact on the issues retailers in Greerton and the CBD were reporting.
He said it banned behaviour that was already against the law - and already difficult to enforce - so adding it to a begging bylaw would give the council and the police no additional enforcement power.
Leanne Brown, who supported the agreed begging ban, disagreed, saying it addressed the specific behaviours that were causing the most harm in the community.
Steve Morris spoke out strongly against the proposed ban on rough sleeping near shops, calling it "unenforceable" and "morally repugnant".
"I find it offensive to say we should ban somebody who has nowhere else to go, nowhere else to sleep; to get them to go sleep in a park somewhere: I find that offensive."
The leader of the council's strategic policy and planning team, Melony Atkins, said no form of begging bylaw could give council staff any power to physically force people to move or stop begging.
"Staff don't believe a bylaw is the best way of addressing the problem."
She said the only enforcement power it would provide was the ability to prosecute through the court system, a process that would be lengthy and expensive, costing tens of thousands of ratepayers' dollars to recover a small fine that a beggar would be unlikely to be able to pay.
Although nine councils had bylaws banning begging, none had enforced its bylaw or successfully prosecuted anyone, she said in a report to the council.
Begging by the numbers
Data collected by Tauranga City Council about begging between March 17 and April 15:
- 2 to 3 beggars on average in Greerton and CBD daily
- 14 concerning incidents of criminal or intimidating behaviour
- 5 disturbances involving beggars
- 82 complaints about begging to the council
- 20 complaints from Greerton
- 3 complaints from Mount Maunganui
- 4 complaints from the CBD
- 55 complaints from the rest of Tauranga
Council counts 33 beggars
Tauranga City Council staff have identified 33 individuals known to beg in the city.
The by-name count happened in March and April, according to a report presented to councillors.
Of the 33, staff found 28 were known to be homeless.