A human rights lawyer has described Tauranga's proposed begging ban bylaw as "criminalising poverty" that would be "difficult and problematic" to enforce.

This follows a council committee meeting on Tuesday that agreed to include a ban on begging and rough sleeping within 5m of any Tauranga retail or hospitality premises.

The Community and Culture Committee voted 6-2 for the ban to go into the draft Street Use and Public Places Bylaw, which will go out for consultation later this year.

Wellington lawyer and human rights specialist Michael Bott said the rule would be inconsistent with the freedom of expression and it would be "criminalising poverty".

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"All the person is doing is expressing the need for money."

Bott said there would be a "strong defence" if there was any attempt to enforce the rule on a person.

"[The bylaw] could be struck out for illegality, it could be subject to an investigation by the ombudsman."

"I think they'd find it extremely difficult and problematic."

Councillor Terry Molloy, who pushed for the begging ban, said he disagreed with the suggestion that the proposed bylaw was about criminalising poverty.

He believed the proposed ban would benefit beggars by forcing the council and other organisations to work harder to come up with comprehensive solutions.

"My hope is that the proposed ban will also help those small retailers in Greerton and others in Tauranga CBD who are struggling because of begging in front of their business."

The council's role was to look after the whole community, he said.

Molloy said he was "bloody angry" that some people had tried to put a negative connotation on the proposal and twisted the intent into something it was not.

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless said that was a "typical legal-type response" and that nobody on the council had suggested that the bylaw was to be enforced.

"It's a method for moving serial beggars on. We hear constantly from the public that they're tired of it."

He said that without the bylaw Tauranga could become a "begging city".

"The bylaw isn't perfect. What are the other alternatives, what are their [opponents'] suggestions?"

Homelessness advocacy groups have hit back against the begging ban.

Milo Night is a community initiative that serves the Tauranga homeless community two nights a week.

Organiser Tracey Carlton said she was "mightily disappointed" with the begging bylaw.
She said she was looking forward to the public submissions to have her say.

"We intend to get on those emails to the council with our right to state our point of view. This is a human rights issue, these are Kiwis. "

Carlton also responded to yesterday's statement from Molloy that the bylaw would be a "tool in the toolbox".

"It's a useless tool," she said.

The manager of Tauranga Moana Night Shelter Trust, Annamarie Angus, said although her organisation did not condone begging, a more effective approach would be to enable services to help people living on the street.

"We need to invest in the solution. There needs to be more assistance around things like foodbanks."

Angus said she was not against the ban per se, but her concern was about how the rule would be effective.

"If you have a rule people can't enforce, what would be the point?"


How they voted
For the bylaw: Greg Brownless, Kelvin Clout, Terry Molloy, Larry Baldock, Catherine Stewart, Bill Grainger
Against: Steve Morris, Leanne Brown

Expanded begging bylaw
- No person shall beg in a public place in a manner that is likely to cause intimidation, harassment, alarm or distress to any reasonable person
- No person shall beg within 5m of a retail or hospitality premises
- No person shall rough sleep within 5m of a retail or hospitality premises
Rough sleeping is defined as sleeping on the streets, pavements and anywhere other than in approved accommodation, with the exception of where the council has given approval.