Two homeless people have labelled a decision to restrict begging and rough sleeping in the city's main shopping areas as "disgusting" and "unforgivable".

A Tauranga City Council committee narrowly passed a controversial recommendation on Tuesday to prohibit begging and rough sleeping within 5m of public entrances to retail and hospitality premises in the Tauranga, Mount Maunganui and Greerton CBDs.

The recommendation will go to a full council meeting for a final vote.

"I reckon it's wrong. We are all human beings." Rough sleeper Neil

Angela Wallace, who is part of Community Angels Tauranga, said she was disappointed and the ban could push beggars and rough sleepers into other areas such as Welcome Bay, Gate Pa, Cherrywood and Pāpāmoa.

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"We think the message it sends is that Tauranga is a mean-spirited place and we don't care for our vulnerable."

Clair Figg, who has been sleeping rough in Tauranga's CBD for about two years, said the decision was "unforgivable".

Tauranga councillor Terry Molloy said using his casting vote to support a proposed ban on begging and rough sleeping in the CBD had been an emotionally hard decision. Photo / file
Tauranga councillor Terry Molloy said using his casting vote to support a proposed ban on begging and rough sleeping in the CBD had been an emotionally hard decision. Photo / file

"People can't help their situations sometimes. Unless you've been there, you can't comprehend what it's like. I've found out the hard way."

Figg has slept on doorsteps, outside churches and on park benches but has a tent now "which has made a big difference".

A "part-time rough sleeper" who would only be known as Neil said the ban was "disgusting".

"I reckon it's wrong. We are all human beings. There are people out there that don't have an income."

Neil said homeless people needed respect.

Many retailers have supported the ban from the beginning.

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Blomquist Bakery owner Sue Blomquist said she was glad the votes went through but disappointed at the narrow margin because begging in Greerton was "destroying retailing".

There was a new breed of beggars who were "nasty" and aggressively approached Blomquist's staff and customers, sometimes in the dark, she said.

"I don't want to live in a community, or country, where that is acceptable".

During the heated council meeting, councillors against the bans levelled claims moral injustices against vulnerable people and said the bans would limit people's rights, be unenforceable, move the problems to other areas and expose the council to huge legal risk if challenged under the Bill of Rights or Local Government Act.

Supporters said the bans were reasonable restrictions, were worth a try, would send a strong message, gave retailers a tool to tell people to move on and that council was committed to ensuring help was available to people in genuine need.

Molloy said his decision was tough as he had worked closely with homeless advocates over the past year.

Tauranga woman Clare Figg who has slept on park benches and on doorsteps says the city council's vote to ban begging and rough sleeping is unfair but she would keep smiling. Photo / Kiri Gillespie
Tauranga woman Clare Figg who has slept on park benches and on doorsteps says the city council's vote to ban begging and rough sleeping is unfair but she would keep smiling. Photo / Kiri Gillespie

"It has been emotionally difficult. I got no enjoyment out of this but I'm confident it will help the community ... this will help the pathway forward," he said.

Molloy hoped the council's move would prompt a response from central Government to better address housing issues.

Enforcing the ban was a last resort, he said, but it enabled the city to work with people to find suitable help. On occasion, police help might be needed to remove people to places they could get help.

"Our concern is for our community. There is much compassion on our council for those less fortunate but we also have to have compassion and care for our wider community."

A provision in the bylaw will allow, if needed, extensions to geographical areas the ban applied to.

The council has spent a year investigating and consulting on the bans, which were first proposed by Molloy last November in response to concerns from city retailers.

Councillors on both sides of the debate commended Molloy's work on the issue, saying he was compassionate, had worked with the social sector on solutions to homelessness issues and had wrestled with the moral issues presented by the bans.

- Additional reporting Samantha Motion

How they voted

After a split 5-5 vote on the begging ban, Community and Culture Committee chairman Councillor Terry Molloy used his casting vote to push the recommendation through following hours of debate on Tuesday night.

The return to the meeting of Councillor Max Mason put the rough sleeping ban vote at 6-5 in favour.

Mason told the Bay of Plenty Times he would have also voted for the begging ban.

Begging ban
For: Terry Molloy, Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout, Bill Grainger, Mayor Greg Brownless, Larry Baldock
Against: Rick Curach, Leanne Brown, John Robson, Steve Morris, Catherine Stewart
Casting vote: Terry Molloy
Absent: Max Mason

Rough sleeping ban
For: Terry Molloy, Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout, Bill Grainger, Mayor Greg Brownless, Larry Baldock, Max Mason
Against: Rick Curach, Leanne Brown, John Robson, Steve Morris, Catherine Stewart

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