Revoking Tauranga's controversial begging and rough sleeping ban is one step closer to reality after a narrow decision by city leaders today.
On November 20, 2018, Tauranga City Council voted 6-5 to ban begging and rough sleeping within 5m of public entrances to retail or hospitality premises in the Tauranga City, Greerton and Mount Maunganui CBDs.
The decision was met with a wave of support from retailers, criticism from homeless advocates and an application for judicial review from Tauranga Housing Advocacy Trust, which was concerned the bylaw was a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights. A hearing date for the review has been set for March 5, 2020.
Today, the newly formed council voted 6-5 to move ahead on a recommendation to revoke the begging and rough sleeping provisions in its Street Use and Public Places Bylaw 2018. Consultation is expected now take place, leading into early next year.
The decision comes despite pleas to elected members from retailers affected by people aggressively begging and scaring off customers.
Downtown Tauranga chairman Brian Berry told the council: "If it ain't broke, don't try to fix it."
Berry was part of about 25 people who gathered in the public forum for a meeting at council chambers today to hear elected member decided whether to keep the bylaw.
He said there had been a notable difference in the city centre since the begging and rough sleeping bylaw came into effect in April this year.
Berry referred to concerns surrounding the bylaw regarding the New Zealand Bill of Rights, which refers to respect for all people irrelevent of their status, and questioned what respect beggars and rough sleepers had for retailers trying to make a living.
Greerton Village Community Association manager Sally Benning also asked the council to retain the bylaw.
"We would be devastated if it were revoked. I can speak for everyone in Greerton."
Benning said she had already written to elected members about the issue in the past week along with several Greerton businesses, some of whom were present in the meeting in support of her.
"In the seven-and-a-half months since we've seen a 360 turnaround with what happens in Greerton with regards to our business owners.
"People have come back, slowly to start, with but people are certainly coming back in numbers simply because they feel safe."
Councillor Heidi Hughes noted there were no representatives of homeless or vulnerable people presenting and questioned whether elected members were appropriately briefed before making the decision.
Policy Committee chairman Steve Morris noted Hughes' concerns and requested more information to be provided to councillors today.
Those councillors who voted to adopt a Statement of Proposal to revoke the begging and rough sleeping provisions were: Heidi Hughes, John Robson, Andrew Hollis, Jako Abrie, Tina Slisbury and mayor Tenby Powell.
Those who voted to keep the existing bylaw were: Larry Baldock, Kelvin Clout, Dawn Kiddie, Bill Grainger and Steve Morris.