Former North Shore Mayor George Wood has been criticised for posting a photograph of a sleeping homeless man to his Facebook page, labelling him a "big oaf".

The current Deputy Chair of the Devonport-Takapuna local board wrote: "What's Auckland City Centre come to these days?" Big oaf lying on the footpath in Galway St outside Britomart Train Station. No pride!"

When contacted by the Herald, Wood said his use of the phrase "might be a bit unfair" as he "didn't know his circumstances" but that it was a "common term".

Wood later removed the comment, posting: "Yes people are right. I should not have described the man as I did. Auckland Council used to move these people on by 7am in the morning. Point taken I should not have described the man, as I did, without waking him up."

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The post was later removed entirely.

George Wood's original post. Photo / Facebook
George Wood's original post. Photo / Facebook

The original post drew comments in support, with some describing the homeless as "ratbags" and complaining of the smell of stale urine in the CBD.

Others suggested that the homeless could be put to work tidying streets and reserves.

Wood said it was "disappointing" that he often received feedback from Aucklanders on the homeless situation in the city.

He said he could put himself in the shoes of visitors to Auckland and questioned what they think of the city when presented with the visible homeless.

Asked whether the homeless problem had grown recently, Wood said it has and "it seems the central city attracts these people and there's no social networks like we have out in the suburbs".

Wood's comments drew criticism from others, with one man slamming him as being "out of touch" and another asking Wood about his "human decency" given the horrendous weather conditions in the city last night.

"To call someone on hard times a Big Oaf is terrible," they wrote.

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"Community halls should be open for these poor people to give them food and a dry place to sleep - it was absolutely torrential rain last night."

Auckland City Missioner Chris Farrelly told the Herald: "Those of us who work with our City's homeless people on a daily basis, know well that homelessness is frequently the result of multiple and compounding causes. Significant trauma being one such cause."

"If we could listen to and understand the stories behind the homeless people will lead us to a compassionate response and a drive to address determinants, rather than perpetuating stereotypes and partial truths."

"There is a growing awareness in our country that our energy must go into lifting up the person, not kicking them when they are on the ground."

A count of Auckland's homeless last year found 800 people living in Auckland without shelter, with another 2874 people including 1299 children in temporary and emergency accommodation.

A Herald investigation in 2018 found that homeless people are dying about 36 years earlier than the general population, with an average life expectancy of just 45 years.