A mixed review of relief and guilt came from shop workers and residents in Tauranga's CBD yesterday, as a controversial begging bylaw came into effect.
Tauranga City Council's new bylaw banned begging and rough sleeping within 5m of public entrances to retail or hospitality premises in the Tauranga City, Greerton and Mount Maunganui shopping areas.
Clever Kids assistant manager Tracey Monroe said the store had a number of beggars sleeping in their CBD loading bay and back ramp, which was some at times disheartening.
She said to try and mediate the problem, they left their back lights on. They then came back to find the lightbulbs smashed and their lighting cables snapped.
Smoking, aggression, and sleeping bags left outside the store from beggars was also not good for the children's toy shop's business, she said.
However, Monroe said she felt sorry for them and that something needed to be done to help. She did not think the bylaw was the answer. Instead, addressing the core issue was needed, she said.
As of 2pm yesterday, the council said it had not had to enforce the ban or speak to any rough sleepers or beggars. Council officers would go to a location if notified of a breach of the bylaw.
Business owner Bill Campbell said after having trouble with beggars outside his store, the law was a good way to provide some power to control the issue.
Beggars often left a "hell of a mess" and it was not a good look for the CBD.
The combination of the bylaw with more drop-in centres and food kitchens being established in the CBD meant people were "encouraging and discouraging them [beggars] to come into town" - which could be quite confusing for them, Campbell said.
However, Campbell said since talk of a bylaw started, the problem had improved.
Councillor Terry Molloy told the Bay of Plenty Times in a previous article the council did not intend to take anyone to court or fine them.
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.
Molloy said the last resort was prosecution but the council did not intend to go down this route.
Little Long Eatery's Anna-Marie Barrett said she heard plenty of complaints about the beggars but did not see anyone doing anything sufficient about it.
"I've made a beggar a coffee because he asked for one. He's a human being just like all of us."
Under the Stars for homeless in Tauranga manager Liz Kite said the bylaw was "inhumane" and it was not okay to kick them off the streets when there was no housing for them to go to.
Kite said the council should have spoken to beggars themselves, as well as charities like hers to get a proper understanding before passing the bylaw.
"What a lot of people don't understand is that these people are not bad people, they are sick people."
She said with unaffordable housing and mental health struggles, the answer was not to just move these people along, but instead help them.
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
"What do you think of the new begging bylaw?"
I really haven't seen it too much here in Tauranga, but I just think where will they go?
Sally O'Shaughnessy, Bethlehem, 59
It is hard to have an opinion, but you can't kick them out if they have nowhere to go.
Helen Payne, Welcome Bay, 51
It definitely depends on the person, but I think it is a good thing for the CBD.
Paul Henderson, Pyes Pa, 28
It really is a mixed thing, good and bad - you do feel sorry for them.
Courtney Spencer, Pyes Pa, 27