A social service leader based in Greerton has backed up local retailers' stories of nasty run-ins with begging gangs but says the solution lies not in more Government money, but in the community.

Tommy Wilson of Te Tuinga Whanau Social Services Trust said he and his staff had seen and heard about many of the same issues Greerton retailers told councillors about yesterday - elderly people bullied into handing over medication, customers accosted at ATMs and fighting and shouting in the streets.

"All of us have seen that. It doesn't seem to be improving. It's a sign of the desperation of people feeding drug habits," he said.

People on the street may be vulnerable or being taken advantage of by gangs, he said.


He did not agree with councillors' assertions that the problems were linked to central Government underfunding of social services and police.

"It's an easy out to keep blaming the Government. The problem is the community's and the solution is in the community. Unless we address this as a community problem, this isn't going to go away."

He said Tauranga was "blessed" to have a range of services - more than other cities - for people who were struggling or homeless, including a night shelter and several other programmes.

He had three pieces of advice for the community: direct your kindness to the right people; if you see something, say something, do something, and let people working on the frontline know that you care.

"A little tautoko [support] goes a long way."

On Tuesday, six Greerton retailers spoke to a meeting of Tauranga City Council's community and culture committee.

They pleaded for help to stop the intimidation of customers and staff by begging gangs and to return the village to the vibrant, safe place it was not so long ago.

They said the council's proposed begging bylaw could not come soon enough. While councillors agreed, they also pointed the finger at central Government for under-resourcing police and social services.

Dan Hughes of Copyman has witnessed shouting, vulgar swearing, physical fights and what he believed were drug deals and prostitution from the "gang" of people that often gathered near his shop.

"Customers come in visibly upset and frightened by these people, as well as feeling upset for the people on the side of the road. There are mixed emotions."

All other retailers who spoke said they were too afraid of "retribution" to give their full names for publication.