Bylaws officers will carry measuring tapes when they start enforcing Tauranga's new begging ban on Monday - but don't intend to use them.

The Tauranga City Council says it will take an "educational" approach to enforcing its controversial new rules in the CBD, Greerton and Mount Maunganui.

Most don't know what to expect from the beginning of enforcement. While some welcomed it, others worried vulnerable people would be saddled with debt.

Councillor Terry Molloy, who led the push for bans and staked his job on their success, said the council did not intend to take anyone to court or fine them.

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Bylaw officers would approach people breaching the bylaw, educate them about the rules and give them information about relevant support services - regularly if need be.

The next step would be an official warning.

"The last resort is prosecution, but we do not intend to go down this route," he said.

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

A council spokeswoman said officers had a measuring tape in their kit but were unlikely to need to accurately measure out 5m.

Barrister Michael Sharp has been instructed by the Tauranga Housing Advocacy Trust to prepare an application for a judicial review into the bylaw.

Molloy was confident the bylaw would stand up to legal scrutiny.

Annamarie Angus, manager of the Tauranga Moana Men's Night Shelter, said she thought the bylaw would prove "extremely hard to police".

Stopping intimidating begging and increasing referrals to support services would be positive outcomes, she said, but fining people or making them feel alienated from the community would be detrimental.

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"There is more support that there was five years ago when we opened our doors."

She believed that included more emergency housing options - particularly subsidised motel rooms - which had impacted shelter numbers.

Annamarie Angus says an increase in referrals would be a positive result of the bylaw. Photo / George Novak
Annamarie Angus says an increase in referrals would be a positive result of the bylaw. Photo / George Novak

It was full last week but, unusually, has often had three or four of its 20 beds open in the past eight months.

Some homeless people would choose a motel over the shelter as they knew their behaviour would not be so closely monitored, she said.

She was relieved the women's shelter, Awhina House, would open soon - April 8 - so men would not necessarily have to stay on the street to protect female partners.

Awhina House manager Angela Wallace said she felt for homeless and vulnerable people.

"I don't know what will happen next, but I think that what this bylaw is going to do it just push people further out of the city."

Awhina House manager Angela Wallace, right, and Haidee Kalirai. Photo / George Novak
Awhina House manager Angela Wallace, right, and Haidee Kalirai. Photo / George Novak

Greerton has seen a reduction in begging issues, which Te Tuinga Whanau Social Service's Tommy Wilson credited to a decrease in donations to beggars as a result of the publicity of the bylaw debate.

"Shifting the focus from sympathy to empathy is key."

People who would not engage could not be helped, and just giving out gold coins and food parcels would only result in the "ghettoisation" of the CBD, he said.

Belinda Sands of Greerton Lotto said they bylaw would give people the ability to approach rulebreakers and "say 'hey guys, that's not how we do it in Greerton'".

Sands credited initiatives to help homeless people for the reduction in numbers of street people.

Greerton Lotto owner Belinda Sands. Photo / Andrew Warner
Greerton Lotto owner Belinda Sands. Photo / Andrew Warner

A lad who used to beg outside the shop - once cheekily using a tape measure to mark out 5m from the doorway - was among those who got help, she said.

"He came in at Christmas in a Santa suit - off his face of course - with lollies for us to apologise [for his behaviour]."

He told them he had a house and a job and would not be bothering them again.

"I won't knock him for it. That's what we want to see."


The new rules

- Begging: Means soliciting for money or goods for private benefit
- Rough sleeping: Means sleeping in a public place on the streets, pavements or
anywhere other than in approved accommodation, with the exception of where council has given approval.
- No person shall beg in a public place within 5m of a public entrance to retail
premises within defined areas in the CBD, Greerton and Mount Maunganui.
- No person shall rough sleep within 5m of a retail premises within defined
areas in the CBD, Greerton and Mount Maunganui.

Source: Street Use and Public Places Bylaw 2018