"Ludicrous."

That was the view of Hamilton Mayor Andrew King on the bylaw Tauranga City Council voted in this week banning begging and rough sleeping near shops and eateries in three CBDs.

Views from councils around New Zealand on Tauranga's move ranged from doubts Tauranga's bylaw would stand up in court to at least one city interested in following suit.

Hamilton and Auckland introduced bylaws in 2014 banning nuisance begging, while Napier has a bylaw requiring people to seek permission to busk or solicit for money. Nelson does not allow people to occupy footpaths at night and Hamilton bans sleeping in a public place "in such a way to cause an obstruction".

Advertisement

King said there was "no way" for Tauranga to enforce its bylaw without getting the police involved to remove people because no one could be compelled to give a council officer their name and address.

"This is a ludicrous bylaw.

"Let's work with the vulnerable and find solutions for the situation they've found themselves in, not take enforcement action."

Wellington City councillor Brian Dawson, social development portfolio lead, said Tauranga's bylaw was "tenuous" and would "almost certainly be overturned" if it went to court.

"In my opinion, it will fall over as soon as someone challenges it."

He said Wellington had "ruled out any kind of ban" on begging or rough sleeping.

Read more:
Opinion: We can't fight homelessness in Tauranga with red tape
Letters: Retailers and tenants have rights too
Tauranga councillor stakes his job on begging, rough sleeping bylaw success


"You can't stop people from sitting on the footpath. There is no value in shifting people from one street to the next."

Advertisement
Auckland councillor Linda Cooper. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Auckland councillor Linda Cooper. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Councillor Linda Cooper, chairwoman of the Auckland Council's regulatory committee, said she did not think Auckland's 2014 begging bylaw had reduced the number of beggars in the city.

She said the council was consulting to replace the bylaw wording targeting beggars with wording targeting the behaviours they wanted to stop, such as obstruction.

"It's not about the type of person, it's about the behaviour and effect they cause.

"Anyone can be intimidating."

She warned a hard-line approach could put enforcement staff at risk.

"If you're too harsh, you end up getting council staff bashed, that's what we found.

"As an employer, our primary obligation is to keep our staff safe."

Auckland had found it was getting better results by having experienced staff build relationships with people on the street and help connect them to the right services.

Napier Mayor Bill Dalton. Photo / Duncan Brown
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton. Photo / Duncan Brown

Napier City Mayor Bill Dalton said he wished Tauranga the best of luck with its law.

"If they can make it stick we may follow suit."

Last year Napier's council charged three people with soliciting money without authority but later dropped the charges.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said she could not say whether a bylaw like Tauranga's could be appropriate for Rotorua "as it's not something we have discussed or considered as a council at this time".

Whakatāne Mayor Tony Bonne said there had been no talk of a bylaw on his council.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / Stephen Parker
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / Stephen Parker

A beggar's view

"I'd just move over there," said Greerton beggar Tyrone Prince, asked what he would do if someone told him he had to be 5m from the doorway of the shop he was sitting outside yesterday with his sign.

The 21-year-old was pointing at a bench on the edge of a pedestrian crossing, not under shelter. Possibly 5m away, hard to tell without a measuring tape.

A map produced by the council with the Chadwick St shopping drag as out of bounds would suggest he would be out of luck.

"As long as people can see my sign I'm sweet as."

He said he made about $100 to $150 a day from begging, which helped pay for basic necessities.

He usually slept on the street, he said, and if he had to move he would take his tent back into the bush at Fraser Cove, and walk back to Greerton to beg each day.

Prince, the son of another Greerton beggar, Mike Prince, said he was already engaged with social service agencies working to find him a house and was not sure what the council's new rules would do to move that process along.

Tauranga's begging and rough sleeping bylaw

What are the new rules?

Begging and rough sleeping are prohibited within 5m of the public entrance to a retail or hospitality premises in defined CBD areas of Tauranga City, Greerton and Mount Maunganui.

When do they come into force?
April 1


Why has the council made these rules?
Retailers said beggars and rough sleepers were causing them significant issues. Supporters say the bylaw is worth trying, will be one of several ways the city is addressing begging and homelessness and will send a strong message.

How will the bylaw be enforced?
The bylaw allows the council to remove any "material or thing using that public place in breach of the bylaw". It can also take people to court and prosecute them under the Local Government Act 2002, which allows penalties of fines.

Could someone challenge the bylaw?
The bylaw can be challenged in two ways: a person or organisation in the community could bring a judicial review to challenge its legality, or a person being prosecuted for breaching the bylaw could challenge it as part of their defence.