A Tauranga councillor and a social service leader have staked their jobs on the success of Tauranga's bans targeting beggars and rough sleepers.

Tauranga City Council voted 6-5 yesterday to ban begging and rough sleeping within 5m of public entrances to retail or hospitality premises in the Tauranga City, Greerton and Mount Maunganui CBDs.

The bans will become law on April 1 in the council's revised Street Use and Public Places Bylaw.

There was strong criticism of the bans from some councillors who said the bylaw would make no difference to the issues retailers faced.

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Councillor Terry Molloy, who proposed the bans a year ago after hearing retailers' concerns, said he would put his job on the line over the issue.

"I am happy to resign ... after this has had a decent trial if there is no [positive] change."

Terry Molloy has staked his job on the success of the bylaw. Photo / George Novak
Terry Molloy has staked his job on the success of the bylaw. Photo / George Novak

He said the measures of success would be a "marked reduction" in beggars and rough sleepers in the targeted areas, people feeling more secure in those areas, happier retailers and the problem not moving elsewhere.

He said the bylaw was not a silver bullet and its success depended on other ongoing efforts to ensure no one in Tauranga had to sleep or beg on the streets to survive.

"Are we going to arrest people and fine them or put them in jail? No, we will not. We are going to work with them."

Te Tuinga Whanau Social Services Trust executive director Tommy Wilson backed "brave" Molloy: "I'll stake my job on it too".

He said the bylaw had brought into the open an honest discussion about the difference between people in genuine need, those feeding addictions and those working for gangs.

"It's easy to ... say 'oh this is so wrong, you're just going to push it out to the suburbs'. No, it's not, it's going to address the issues.

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"No one is going to be dragged kicking and screaming off the streets."

Both Angela Wallace, chairwoman of He Kaupapa Kotahitanga Trust Tauranga (behind the Street Retreat and planned women's shelter) and Tracey Carlton, who runs Milo nights for CBD homeless, said they were "gutted" for the vulnerable people living on Tauranga's streets.

Wallace said: "I think Mahatma Gandhi said it best when he said the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.

"Tauranga is going to go down as the city in New Zealand that doesn't care about our vulnerable."

Tracey Carlton, who runs Milo nights for Tauranga's homeless, said she was dismayed by the council's decision. Photo / George Novak
Tracey Carlton, who runs Milo nights for Tauranga's homeless, said she was dismayed by the council's decision. Photo / George Novak

Carlton said the bylaw would push vulnerable people further into the shadows away from the shelter, security - lights, CCTV cameras - and support services in CBD areas.

Mount Maunganui lawyer Michael Sharp said the legality of the bylaw could be challenged in court either via a judicial review brought by a person or organisation in the community or as part of the defence for someone prosecuted under the bylaw.

Retailers welcomed the council's decision.

Greerton Lotto owner Belinda Sands said it meant she would not have to deal with aggressive beggars alone and could ring the council if an offender would not move.

Tauranga Mainstreet chairman Brian Berry said the bylaw recognised that people sitting or lying on the footpath could make others feel intimidated and uncomfortable even without aggression.

Greerton Village Community Association mainstreet manager Sally Benning said most local businesses would be happy with the decision and thanked the council for working with them on the issue.

"We all have complete empathy for the genuine homeless. But we understand it had a very detrimental effect on some of the retailers."

The council's policy staff estimated the bylaw would cost $215,000 a year to enforce - covering an extra enforcement officer, another related role and potential prosecution costs - but the council voted unanimously to commit no extra funding for enforcement in its next budget.

Begging and rough sleeping bans: How they voted

For: Mayor Greg Brownless, Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout, Terry Molloy, Larry Baldock, Max Mason, Bill Grainger

Against: Steve Morris, John Robson, Leanne Brown, Catherine Stewart, Rick Curach.