Fewer beggars are on the streets in the Tauranga suburb of Greerton.

One retailer says there have been "massive gains" and a social service leader and city councillor are also reporting large improvements.

Last year, business owners and members of the public shared stories of increased aggressive and problem begging in Greerton, central Tauranga and other parts of the city.

It led to the Tauranga City Council passing a controversial bylaw that bans begging and rough sleeping within 5m of the public entrances to retail or hospitality premises in the Tauranga City, Greerton and Mount Maunganui CBDs.

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The bans will become law on April 1 this year as part of the council's revised Street Use and Public Places Bylaw.

However, the environment, in Greerton at least, is said to have already improved.

Greerton Lotto owner Belinda Sands said yesterday that the situation with beggars had "got better" and while there was still a small group hanging around, and some signs still out asking for money, she said it was "nowhere near" as bad as it was.

"I think it's probably because they're just not getting the cash that they used to. I think people are becoming really wise to … what these guys are up to."

Tommy Wilson, of Greerton-based Te Tuinga Whānau Social Services Trust, agreed.

"We've noticed a significant improvement and, for me, it's all about the money."

He said members of the public had "worked out the difference between sympathy and empathy" and were giving their kindness strategically, not just handing over cash to fuel habits.

His organisation had helped with that, setting up an ATM alternative with the Chadwick Rd Westpac branch so people could instead direct their donations towards the social services helping the homeless.

"No money, no honey – they go away … and that's what's happened," Wilson said.

Tommy Wilson, director of Te Tuinga Whānau Social Services Trust. Photo / File
Tommy Wilson, director of Te Tuinga Whānau Social Services Trust. Photo / File

Mathew Manninen, owner of Tauranga Menswear on Chadwick Rd, said there had been "massive gains".

"It's way better than it was and we're a lot happier with the situation.

"There aren't anywhere near the problems that we were encountering last year. In fact, I've said to quite a few customers, and they've noticed as well, that there's definitely been a decline."

Manninen attributed the change to a combination of things, but singled out the work of the Tauranga City Council and The People's Project.

"The efforts they made with helping some of the people into [housing], whether it be social housing, or even just getting the services that they require, has made a huge difference."

Angela Wallace, who is involved in several community initiatives helping the homeless in Tauranga, said the campaigns encouraging people to give their monetary donations to social service agencies working on the ground, instead of directly to people begging on the street, had probably had a positive effect.

"And just the awareness of the public around what's beneficial to give to people - it might be better to give food or just spend some time chatting with someone on the street, rather than giving them money."

Tauranga City councillor Terry Molloy, who spearheaded the introduction of the bylaw last year, said he had kept pretty close tabs on the situations in Greerton and the Tauranga CBD and "there has been a big improvement".

Tauranga city councillor Terry Molloy. Photo / File
Tauranga city councillor Terry Molloy. Photo / File

The focus the bylaw had put on the issues played an important part in that, Molloy said, in conjunction with the work done by The People's Project and other groups working with the homeless and street community.

He said the introduction of security guards in Greerton had also had "a considerable effect" and so had the posters put up in shop windows advising shoppers against giving to beggars.

"We've always said [the bylaw] was only a tool in the toolbox. Going forward, there are still going to be issues because that conveyor belt that's bringing in people who are in distressed situations hasn't stopped."