Two Tauranga councillors want to introduce bans against begging and rough sleepers in the city.
Terry Molloy and Bill Grainger are asking the council to urgently introduce a bylaw banning begging citywide and rough sleeping in the city centre and other defined retail areas.
The move comes amid rising concerns about the increasing number of beggars in the city and whether all are in genuine need.
But community groups working with the homeless say just moving rough sleepers from one part of the city is not going to solve the problem.
Molloy said his concerns about begging and rough sleepers stemmed from living in the CBD and talking to ground-floor retailers and office workers.
A council survey of those retailers backed up those concerns, he said.
Molloy said people had reported seeing beggars dropped off in town in the morning and picked up in the evening.
He hoped a notice of motion, to be considered by council today, would see the bylaw introduced.
"An important part of the notice of motion around rough sleepers is we have to be able to have somewhere for them to go."
Grainger said retailers in Greerton had raised concerns about beggars.
Tauranga could learn from Nelson, which adopted a bylaw in August banning rough sleeping overnight in the CBD on footpaths and roads, he said.
"It seems to be working for them."
Grainger said the bylaw would also encourage people in genuine need to engage with the services available to them.
"It's more to work with them than say 'you can't sleep here'."
Tauranga Moana Night Shelter manager Annamarie Angus said the night shelter did not condone begging, and believed it had a negative impact.
"In terms of prohibiting rough sleepers on our streets in Tauranga, that's just going to move the problem somewhere else. I think we need to be helping these people and supporting these people, not just continually moving them around," she said.
However, if the council were to have approved areas with ablutions and make them user-friendly and safe for people without a home, "then I believe that's a good thing".
Tania Lewis-Rickard, who directs food charity Kai Aroha, questioned what solutions were actually being offered.
"Banning isn't going to solve the problem, it will only shift it somewhere else. If you are going to take something away it needs to be replaced with something.
"If council feel the need to introduce a bylaw then they need to bring a solution to homelessness."
She said she totally understood begging being banned everywhere, but said it was a catch 22 as not only would the ban get rid of "the hustlers who have taken advantage of the true beggars, but sadly the true beggars will miss out too".
"Who will be there for the true beggars? My heart goes out to them. This includes the elderly too."
Senior Constable Paul Wrigley, a community constable with Tauranga police and a trustee for the night shelter, told councillors last week that begging was becoming more common and he would support a bylaw that would reduce the numbers of beggars.
"My experience on the street is that people are turning away food."
Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless also supported the move.
"It would give the police the teeth to move those people on."
The big outstanding question was where they would be moved to, he said.
"There is not an easy fix, but I feel to do nothing is not an option. It's getting worse."
There was a mix of people in "genuine hardship" and people "trying it on", he said.
As well as bothering business owners, he believed beggars and rough sleepers using bus stops were also putting people off using public transport.
Views from downtown Tauranga
If public sentiment in downtown Tauranga yesterday was anything to go by, there would also be a lot of people in the community who would support a begging and rough sleeper ban.
Two women from Sulphur Pt said they would agree with a ban.
"Because it's hard enough getting shoppers into the city centre here and it is a bit off-putting. I mean, I sympathise with them," one of the women, a 74-year-old, said.
A 48-year-old man from Otumoetai said a ban was needed to tidy up the streets.
"You probably need to put them together somewhere, maybe in a shelter or something like that."
Jasmine Cotter, 21, from central Tauranga, supported a ban.
"I reckon it would be good because then it stops that from happening in the city centre."
But not everyone agreed.
Isuru Jayaweera, from central Tauranga, and Rohit K C, from Te Puke, said some of the people on the street were forced to live like that and did not like begging but had no other choice.
The 20-year-olds said rather than ban those people, the city and Government should be doing something to help them.
Rough sleeper supports begging ban "to a point"
Stu, a rough sleeper in central Tauranga, said it was a "tough one" but he believed a bylaw should be introduced.
"It should be, f**ken oath, and I'm a streetie. There should be a law introduced - to a point."
The 46-year-old, whose story featured in the Bay of Plenty Times last week, said there should be limitations to the law.
"With the rough sleeping thing, come on ... put yourself in that position, you know."
Stu said people living on the street should not be dumping their rubbish or abusing people or demanding money, and should not be bothering shop owners.
"At the end of the day, it's a bad look ... but it's about how people go about stuff as well. I don't agree with 90 per cent of the s**t these guys do and that's why I'm sort of an independent.
"That's why I sit in front of an empty shop, so I'm not hassling anyone's foot traffic."
Stu said if people were caught smoking synthetics or using drugs or alcohol on the street they should be banned too.
He said there were people who actually had places to live and were just begging to make money. A bylaw should target them.
"It's everywhere. There are people here that come in every day to make money for drugs and alcohol and whatever their fix is, and then they go home every night.
"How many streeties have seven changes of clothes? Every time they come into town, they've got different clothes on."
Stu said offers of work and a place to live had so far fallen through or not eventuated for him, but he was determined that would change soon.