City leaders, retailers and councillors are torn on whether Tauranga's new bylaw restricting rough sleepers and beggars in parts of the inner-city should be considered in Rotorua.
Tauranga City Council this week voted 6-5 to ban begging and rough sleeping within 5m of public entrances to retail or hospitality premises in the Tauranga City, Greerton and Mount Maunganui CBDs.
The bans will become law on April 1 in the council's revised Street Use and Public Places Bylaw.
Renee White, who works part-time at Designer Direct on the corner of Pukuatua and Tutanekai Sts, has been homeless in Rotorua before and knows how tough life can get for people with no money.
However, she said there was a time and a place, as well as a manner, to ask for money from strangers.
She said a begging ban in Rotorua would be a good idea in some areas because those harassing people for money were making Rotorua look bad.
"A begging bylaw can help but there needs to be a solution because for some begging is a necessity. The price of living is getting worse and worse. Incomes have not risen to meet those needs."
White, who was homeless on and off for seven months and had to live in a motel, said she had come through the other side of homelessness after entering Miss Rotorua and gaining confidence. She now worked two jobs, including singing at local bars.
She was involved in a musicians' event in Rotorua at a venue on Pukuatua St at the weekend and said she was disappointed with the behaviour of homeless people hanging around outside the drop-in centre.
She said someone had started a fire in the public toilets further up the road, others were arguing and fighting on the streets and security staff at nearby bars had to step in.
"We had manuhiri (visitors) here who were saying 'whaia, you have some unsavoury people around the streets in Rotorua now'. The feedback we got on the weekend was heartbreaking because that was the only downside."
She said she had seen people begging at larger stores in Rotorua where it appeared adults were using their children to ask for money.
"One would be on one door and another on another working simultaneously and talking to each with adults nearby in cars watching them."
Juha Lee from Chicken Spot Cafe on Pukuatua St did not think a begging bylaw would work or stop people asking.
He said in his heart he wanted to help those struggling but it was hard because his business was small.
He said if you gave one person some food, there would soon be crowds of others at his doorstep and he admitted at times he felt frightened.
"They have tattoos and every day they drink alcohol and kick doors and windows. They also swear and say [racist words] so it makes it hard to want to help."
Simply Holistic on Pukuatua St owner Tania Abraham said she had been approached and asked for money before but she politely said no and it wasn't an issue. She didn't think a begging bylaw was needed in Rotorua.
The Rotorua Daily Post approached three other business owners in the central city who said the homeless people begging for money on the street were "doing their head in" but they were too afraid to talk about it publicly.
Another said he would love to comment to the media but knew if he did he would "get rocks thrown through my window".
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said Rotorua Lakes Council worked collaboratively with other organisations and agencies such as the Ministry of Social Development and police to address homelessness and behaviour issues.
"I'm not able to say whether the way this is being dealt with elsewhere would be appropriate for Rotorua as it's not something we have discussed or considered as a council at this time."
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said there would have to be a lot of discussion before he formed an opinion as to whether Rotorua would consider a similar bylaw.
"I know there are concerns about the behavior of Rotorua's beggars and rough sleepers ... But I think we are a long way off an agreement on a similar bylaw here."
Councillor Karen Hunt said a one-size-fits-all approach could not be taken regarding a ban.
Councillor Tania Tapsell was resolute in saying she would not support a similar ban in Rotorua, while councillor Rob Kent said his initial response was to not support a ban but he would need more information before making a decision.
Councillors Peter Bentley and Mark Gould said they would support a ban, with Gould saying he felt for local retailers.
"I can't imagine anything worse for a business owner than to have a less-than-fortunate person sitting outside their business demanding money," Bentley said.
Councillor Raj Kumar commended Tauranga's council on its bold decision and said if a similar bylaw addressed what he believed was an issue in Rotorua, he would support it.
Councillors Trevor Maxwell, Charles Sturt and Merepeka Raukawa-Tait could not be reached.
The council's kaiwhakahaere Māori Gina Rangi said the issue had not come to the council for consideration.
"Regarding homelessness, council's primary focus has been to work collaboratively with other organisations that have expertise in this area to deliver long-term solutions," Rangi said.
"Council is aware there are some concerns about loitering and anti-social behaviour in the inner-city and there have been concerns about rough sleepers but that has declined in recent times and we continue to work closely with local businesses, the police and Māori Wardens to address these issues to ensure Rotorua is a safe and enjoyable place to be."
Last year the council recorded four complaints from retailers about begging, none to date this year.
Love Soup's Elmer Peiffer said Rotorua's begging scenario was very different to Tauranga's.
"We know or work with many of the city's genuine homeless. Many of them busk to try to earn some money but very rarely do they beg."
He said night shelters did help rough sleepers in the interim but there needed to be an end target for the people using them.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce acting chief executive Bryce Heard said he was unsure whether a similar ban in Rotorua should be supported or not.
"Aside from what I have read, I have had no direct or indirect experience with Rotorua's homeless sleeping within 5m of business premises," Heard said.
"To my knowledge it's not an issue in Rotorua, or at least I hope it's not."
Tiny Deane, who operates the city's homeless shelter, said he could understand concerns from business owners as homeless people sleeping in doorways often left "one hell of a mess".
"But instead of creating a bylaw, why don't councillors look at a way to solve the problem instead of just moving rough sleepers on."