Suburban Rotorua retailers have had enough of beggars with some calling for a city-wide begging ban and others urging locals to refuse to give them money.
Retailers spoken to by the Rotorua Daily Post say they are pleased a joint Rotorua Lakes Council and police summer safety campaign is having a positive impact in the central city, but now they need to address what they say is a begging issue at suburban shopping centres.
The council has not yet considered a begging bylaw but both mayor Steve Chadwick and the police urge residents to always call police if they feel intimidated or threatened.
The Rotorua Daily Post visited several shopping centres talking to retailers and those at Westend and St Andrews appeared the worst targeted by beggars.
Bottle-O Otonga Rd duty manager Gaurav Kumar said they had a man who regularly walked up and down the shopping area asking people for money. When he got enough, he would go into his store and buy a box of beer.
"It is scary for customers."
He believed the man was not legitimately desperate as some mornings he would buy alcohol not long after the store opened and often had a lot of cash in his hands, or paid no problem using a money card.
Hairdressing business owner Sarah Lockwood, also on Otonga Rd, said she'd like to see a begging bylaw so it was clear their actions weren't legal or welcome.
"It makes people scared to go to their cars. It's a pain and it's intimidating for clients who come in here."
She said she had called police in the past about a man begging and they had responded but the man returned a few days later.
Westend retailers also backed calls for a begging ban but said locals should stop giving beggars money.
One retailer, who didn't want to be named for fear of backlash from the beggars, said anyone giving them money was naive.
"They are wearing $200 boots, have phones, are smoking, wearing puffer jackets and yet they are asking people 'do you have spare change?'. The people who don't see that and give them money are idiots.
The retailer said she believed some beggars were'nt homeless as they had cars parked out the back of the shop.
The woman said they often got abused and told to "get back to your own country" because they were supposedly taking jobs.
"I work here, pay my taxes and help pay for the footpaths that they walk on and yet they tell me to get back to my own country."
Another Westend retailer, who also didn't want to be named, said he had heard from locals some of the beggars were sleeping in the grounds at Malfroy School.
"I'm so over it. They stand around the ATMs waiting for people to withdraw money."
He said he rang police often but they usually didn't come unless they were being abusive or threatening - which was why he said a begging ban would help.
Another Westend retailer, who also was afraid of having his name published, said he offered some of the beggars food but unfortunately they kept coming back. He had since learnt not to give them anything.
He said he had tried calling police but was often on hold for a long time because it wasn't an urgent matter.
Edmund Rd 4 Square owner/operator Clare Gallagher said they no longer had an issue because locals knew beggars weren't welcome.
"Our philosophy is there is no excuse for rudeness so we always have a conversation with them and ask 'are you okay, can we help, can we call anyone?'."
But the end result was always to move them on, she said.
Brookland Liquor Spot manager Frank Kumar said he noticed the beggars worked in a group but he felt they were harmless and those who didn't want to give, didn't have to.
Fruit Monster Lake Rd owner/manager Sandeep Banwait said they had an issue but she called the police and it was taken seriously and they hadn't returned.
"It was bullying and they were using swear words and people really complained."
The joint police and council summer safety campaign, which was for the central city including Kuirau Park, Lakefront and Government Gardens, has been praised by city retailers who said the extra security guards and police patrols were paying off.
The council hasn't formally discussed whether it would consider a begging ban similar to Tauranga and isn't meeting again until next month.
However, Chadwick said: "People are focused on this as a begging issue but this is actually about intimidating and aggressive behaviour by some which is making people feel unsafe, and I can't stress enough that type of behaviour should always be reported to the police so it can be dealt with."
Rotorua police area commander Inspector Anaru Pewhairangi said police regularly met with community partners to discuss issues of homelessness and begging.
"This includes the relevant social agencies, whose role is to provide assistance and support while addressing the issues that motivate people to solicit money on the street.
"While begging is not an offence in Rotorua, police would strongly encourage anyone who feels threatened or unsafe due to antisocial behaviour to notify us immediately, so we can respond as appropriate."
He said while police and the council preferred to work with those people in need, if they acted in an intimidating or threatening manner, police would take action.