A representative for Greerton retailers fears beggars will return to the village as the Tauranga City Council moves to ditch its controversial begging and rough sleeping bans.
The council's Policy Committee voted six to four yesterday to recommend revoking the restrictions, which have been in force since April last year.
Others have celebrated the decision as a win for the city's most vulnerable, and hope the recommendation will be confirmed when it goes to a council meeting next Thursday for ratification.
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The bans outlawed begging and rough sleeping within 5m of the entrances to shops and eateries in central areas of the CBD, Mount Maunganui and Greerton.
In the meeting, some councillors pushed a compromise that would have targeted the bans to nuisance, intimidating or harassing begging and to rough sleeping that caused an obstruction, but this failed.
The council has voted down similar amendments before, with one argument being those behaviours - intimidation, harassment - were already illegal under the Summary Offences Act 1981.
Sally Benning, the spokeswoman for Greerton Village retailers, said after the meeting she was "disappointed" in the decision, and particularly the lack of support for a compromise.
An influx of beggars into Greerton Village just over two years ago prompted the council to pursue the bans. Retailers told horror stories of staff and customers being harassed and intimidated in the street.
Benning said some of the councillors who voted to revoke the bans today were not on the council then and "didn't see it at its worst". It had improved since the bans were brought in.
Decision day for begging bylaw: Will it stay or will it go?
She hoped revoking the bans would not change anything, but was "fearful" beggars would return in force to Greerton.
"That's the fear and I pray that it doesn't happen."
She was also upset the council ignored the majority of submissions backing the bans.
"What is the point of asking people for their opinions if you are then not going to go with the majority?"
Former councillor Terry Molloy, who led the charge for the bans, said the decision showed some elected members did not understand the intent of the bylaw.
"There was a certain amount of woolly-headed thinking in there too."
Tommy Wilson of Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust, a backer of the bylaw, said the decision was a win-win.
The bylaw shed light on begging issues and had hopefully helped people get past just feeling sympathy for street people.
It was time to stop worrying about bylaws and listening to war stories, he said, and get on with finding real solutions to homelessness, emergency housing and poverty.
"Just please everyone, stop giving [beggars] money."
The decision has signalled the likely withdrawl of a legal case experts had predicted would cost the council more than $100,000.
The Tauranga Housing Action Trust had applied for a judicial review of the council's decision to bring in the bans.
Trust spokesman Shard Loibl said there would be no need for the review if the council followed through and revoked the ban next week.
Tracey Carlton, of Street Kai team Auntys, which runs Milo nights for people in need, said it was good news for "our peeps" and she was looking forward to seeing the "positive" decision confirmed.
Councillors made passionate arguments for and against the bans in the meeting.
Andrew Hollis said the issue was about a "group of ratepayers against a group of criminal locals the police refuse to address who are probably not ratepayers".
"We are showing we care more for the homeless and those criminals ... than we do for our ratepayers."
In response, Jako Abrie, who works with groups that help the homeless, said the council represented all residents, "not just the ones wealthy enough to pay rates".
Kelvin Clout said New Zealand was a first-world country and there was "no excuse for any person to have to sit on the sidewalk and put their hands out for a few coins here and there".
Abrie said in response: "Any person, even Cr Clout, could have a psychotic breakdown tomorrow and find themselves begging on the street."
Steve Morris and John Robson argued social issues such as begging and homelessness fell under central government, not local.
Morris called the bylaw "a distraction" and Robson said the council and community should be telling central government it was not doing enough.
Mayor Tenby Powell said the bylaw had been a "tactical response to a strategic problem".
Rough sleepers needed security and shelter and the council was looking into opening one of its carparks at night to provide that.
How they voted
To revoke clauses in the bylaw that banned begging and rough sleeping in parts of Tauranga.
For: Mayor Tenby Powell and councillors Jako Abrie, John Robson, Steve Morris, Heidi Hughes and Tina Salisbury.
Against: Andrew Hollis, Dawn Kiddie, Kelvin Clout and deputy mayor Larry Baldock,
Absent: Bill Grainger.