The city of Napier is, along with many other cities around NZ, experiencing a growing problem with begging and disorderly behaviour in our CBD.
The problem is a complicated one that will require a co-ordinated approach from a variety of sectors in our community to resolve.
The growing frustration from the public and business owners regarding this issue is understandable. They have been threatened, intimidated, sworn at, assaulted and robbed and this cannot continue. The situation is having a major impact on the ability of the community to go about their lawful daily business and is not a good look for a city that once prided itself as a clean, safe, tourist destination.
There is nothing to be achieved from finger pointing and blaming anyone for the situation that we find ourselves in. Anyone who travels will know that this is a long existing and growing problem worldwide that has finally found its way to NZ at the bottom of the world.
What can you do? Firstly you the public need to know that giving money to these people is wasted - a group of them are receiving benefits, they have a roof over their heads and are using the opportunity to beg to supplement their income.
There is reason to believe that they are co-ordinated and managed and playing on your generosity. The other group are homeless and using the money you give them to feed addictions.
Please stop feeding the problem and instead give your financial contribution to those agencies that already exist to support these people like WIT and the Salvation Army.
What can the council do? We can support a city assist programme like the one in Hastings and Hamilton to have a team dedicated to moving these people on, enforcing our bylaws and making sure that the community can safely go about their business in our CBD.
What can the police do? Respond to every call made by members of the public and business community, dedicate a real resource to the problem (a dedicated police presence in our CBD), enforce the NCC request to trespass troublemakers from Clive Square and generally enforce the law.
What can the DHB do? Provide or fund adequate mental health and addiction services so that there is somewhere for these people to be referred to for help.
What can the Government do? Provide adequate funding and resources to our police and health board so that they are able to respond to the obvious and growing community need.
There is clear statistical evidence that our community needs more government investment and it's high time it responded. Our statistics in crime, housing and mental health including suicides and addictions are some of the worst in New Zealand.
These people on our streets whether we like it or not are part of our community and they deserve a humane response to their condition. Fining someone who has no income or locking them up when they are ill does not solve the problem. However, our citizens must also be able to go about their business safe from the threat of violence and intimidation.
This is a complicated problem requiring a multiple agency solution.
The time for talk is over - it is time now for action and for everyone to step up and own the problem facing our community.
Tania Wright is a Napier City Councillor.