Tauranga City Council has spent more than $100,000 taking legal advice on the begging and rough sleeping bans it has decided to dump after less than a year.
That money has now been "wasted", one advocate for the bans says. Others argue the revocation will avoid an even heftier legal bill down the track and the real waste has been time spent on the wrong response.
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The council voted six to four yesterdayto revoke the bans, which have applied near retail and hospitality premises doorways in the CBD, Greerton and Mount Maunganui since April.
The decision will take effect from March 6.
The Tauranga Housing Advocacy Trust has previously said it would drop its application to the High Court for a judicial review of the bans if they were revoked.
Ahead of yesterday's meeting, the Bay of Plenty Times asked the council for the amount spent on relevant external legal advice since the bans were first proposed in November 2017.
The figure provided was $102,709.37, including GST.
Former Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless, who watched yesterday's vote from the public gallery having backed the bans during his term, said the revocation meant "that money [the $102,000] has been wasted now".
He said he was disappointed for retailers.
"These laws are important to set standards and one of those standards should be that you should not beg or sleep within a few metres of the doorway of someone trying to eke out a living.
"We will never know now what the legality or otherwise of the bylaw is. Asking lawyers for opinions is not a definitive answer."
The Bay of Plenty Times spoke to two Greerton retailers who were disappointed in the decision.
Tauranga Mayor Tenby Powell, who voted to ditch the bans, said he understood retailers would be mad.
The legal advice, however, was consistent from the first suggestion of a begging bylaw: "There is no way we can enforce it and there is no way we will be able to defend a legal challenge to it.
"I cannot subject the ratepayers to potentially $200,000 to defend a court case that we will lose.
"What that would have led most councils to agree to is finding a way to use that $100,000 or whatever it was back then to resource a system that managed the city better."
In the meeting, some councillors argued for putting money saved from avoiding court towards a positive measure to help people feel safer in areas used by beggars and rough sleepers.
Councillor John Robson raised the idea of an ambassador, whose presence could give anyone feeling fearful a degree of comfort that the street was monitored and safe.
"It would also send a small message to those who would be less than social in their behaviour that they are being watched. Every day."
A majority voted to look at funding such a role through the upcoming Annual Plan, but other councillors said they would not support the spending.
Deputy mayor Larry Baldock said ambassadors made no difference in the past and councillor Kelvin Clout said the role "wouldn't have any teeth because there won't be an appropriate bylaw for them to enforce".
Councillor Steve Morris characterised the bylaw as a two-year distraction - time wasted going around in circles for "an empty piece of paper with no teeth" instead of advocating for real solutions.
Robson also slammed local police.
"The police here, in terms of resourcing community constables and the benefit that provides, have failed this community.
"Local police cannot insist they have adequate resources, for fear of upsetting their political masters, and at the same time fail to provide the level of community policing our community requires."
He said that if local police wanted to stand up to the Government and ask for more resourcing, he believed the council would stand beside them.
In response to Robson's comments after the meeting, Western Bay of Plenty area prevention manager Inspector Zane Smith said rough sleeping and begging were largely social issues and not in themselves criminal offences.
"A key focus will be to work with individuals with high and complex needs to ensure they get access to the services they require. A similar plan is under consideration for the Tauranga central city.
"Police are committed to keeping our communities safe and we are conscious of the important role our community constables play.
"We have recently invested in a community constable for the Pāpāmoa area, with further investment currently under consideration."
Police were "comfortable" with how resources were managed and prioritised to ensure officers were deployed in the right areas at the right time.
Police Minister Stuart Nash's office pointed to a media release showing 160 new police officers had been deployed to the Bay of Plenty under the coalition Government.
Tauranga's short-lived begging and rough sleeping ban
November 2017: Begging and rough sleeping ban first proposed.
November 2018: After going through several rounds of options, the council backs adding a location-based restriction to its Street Use and Public Places Bylaw.
April 2019: Begging and rough sleeping bans come into effect.
February 2020: The newly elected council votes to revoke the bans.
March 2020: The bans will be officially revoked.