A South Taranaki retailer running for the mayoralty is being criticised for his views on homelessness after a controversial radio interview.
Craig Baylis, a mayoral candidate for the South Taranaki District Council, appeared on Hokonui Taranaki this morning to voice his views on a squatter living on Hawera's main street.
Derek, a well known squatter in Hawera, has been living rough in the town centre for about two years.
In an interview with host Bryan Vickery, Baylis put forth his "pretty non-negotiable view on the vagabond".
"My view on Derek is pretty black and white, and this isn't going to be everyone's kettle of fish – but Derek has to go.
"If I am successful in my Mayor run, I can tell you right now that I will use every resource available to me as the Mayor to remove Derek from that main street," he said.
"I would pick him up and carry him myself if I could, that might be a bit of a smelly job but he has got to go."
Baylis continues on to clarify his view on homelessness, saying he is not just against Derek but "anybody who decides they want to live on the main street".
His puts his stance down to a planned $15 million upgrade to Hawera's Town Centre, stating that accommodating homelessness is not the way to attract people to the town.
"We are about to spend a lot of money in that area upgrading our town, and we are trying to attract new people to that town, and it's no good having a guy lying there," he said.
"I own a shop in town, I have a business in town and if we are going to make this town worthwhile for families to come and live, and bring people here to spend money from all over the world, that has to change."
While Baylis acknowledged that mental health issues may have contributed to the vagrant's homelessness, he said it was not the community's job to look after him.
"Many families, including my own, have been touched by mental health issues – but it doesn't mean we have to have the community look after us," he said.
When questioned about whether he was worried about coming across as "insensitive, right wing, or the Ebenezer Scrooge of Hawera", Baylis didn't seem fazed.
"I believe I have to look after the people who are adding to our community, who own homes there and have their money invested there.
"This is not the right look to encourage the right sort of people, who are going to contribute to our society, to come and live in our town," he said.
"If you want to lie around on the street, wandering around cadging food – then don't vote for me."
A video of the interview posted on social media has attracted over 100 comments from bewildered viewers.
Many have questioned his comments and stated he will not be getting their mayoralty vote.
"Imagine thinking removing two vulnerable people from Hawera would improve the town's commercial appeal! That's just so far beyond ridiculous," one person wrote.
Another said: "Wow. How sad. Wouldn't it be better if we helped people to get out of bad situations, and tried to lift them up and make the world a kinder place for them, rather than simply saying 'not in my CBD'."
Another wrote: "Won't be getting my vote! There's a thousand and one ways that you could have addressed the 'issue' of any homeless sleeping on our streets that may have found you favour, but the way in which you speak makes me feel ill!"
Others also came to the defence of Derek, stating he is "the sweetest man", makes them feel comfortable when they are in town at night - whilst imploring Baylis to "leave the poor bugger alone".