Tauranga City Council was in a bind.

Like other councils around New Zealand, it was inching into the realm of social policy - a domain it previously considered strictly that of central Government - when along came the beggars.

Annoying ratepaying retailers. Causing voters to feel intimidated. Making the place look untidy for the cruise ship tourists. The living embodiment of dual crises of housing and mental healthcare.

It looked like a no-win situation from the start. And the solution the council voted in this week - banning begging and rough sleeping within 5m of CBD shops and eateries in Tauranga City, Greerton and Mount Maunganui - is a no-win solution.


It's an attempt to fight homelessness with bureaucracy: Red measuring tape.

This is a bylaw that takes no issue with a charity asking me for my personal information as well as my money but wants a beggar sitting silently with a sign to be shuffled off.

It's a bylaw that makes it more acceptable to sleep under a bridge than it is to sleep on a public footpath outside a shop that is not even open.

It's a bylaw intended, as its council advocates have repeatedly said, to send a message to the Government and to the council itself that more urgent action is needed.

What? This is how councillors kick themselves and their staff into gear? This is how local government makes a point to central Government? Surely there are better ways.

The council has poured more than a year of effort into these bans, to make them as restrictive as possible without - the council hopes - crossing the line into a breach of the Bill of Rights.

To say it still looks ripe for a court challenge is an understatement.

This bylaw seems backwards when so much good work has been done to build relationships with people on the street, to help them overcome the barriers to seeking help, to convince them a better life is possible.


I don't see it driving beggars and homeless people into the arms of people who can help.

It might drive them to other parts of the city.

But, ah, the council has thought of that. If the problem moves they can expand the geographic boundaries the bylaw applies to.

But where does that end? How far will the council go?

If it moves the problem to Rotorua or Whakatāne or Hamilton, is that job done?