If you have recently returned to Tauranga after being away for a few years, you are probably saddened to see beggars on our local streets. Begging is seen in all major cities across the world but it’s now a growing problem here, which is alarming considering our population size.
The problem has been widely publicised with local shop owners desperate for Tauranga City Council to take action.
Greerton is an area where beggars congregate. Recently I met with a group of shop owners and concerned constituents from the Greerton area. They spoke of the intimidation and fear they face on a daily basis, while trying to remove beggars from outside their shops.
Begging is a bad look for our city. It drives away customers and hurts local businesses.
I want to make it clear that begging must not be confused with homelessness. I am always concerned with the most vulnerable in our community and helping them. That said, the people I spoke with do not believe these beggars are homeless or genuine.
There are solutions. Hamilton City Council has a Safety in Public Places Bylaw. Their bylaw sets out acceptable levels of behaviour and has an enforcement provision. It provides a framework for safety officers who patrol the streets to work with people to change their behaviour. There is some clear evidence that their approach is achieving some success in the central city.
There is no reason why a similar approach won’t work here. Tauranga City Council needs to take a firmer line by introducing and enforcing a bylaw now. No more reports, no more consultation, this needs to be a priority.