Tauranga retailers against revoking begging bylaw
A move to revoke the begging and rough sleeping ban could have a negative impact on retailers, says Downtown Tauranga chair Brian Berry.
The bylaw prevents people from begging and rough sleeping with five metres of public entrances to retail or hospitality premises in the Tauranga City, Mount Maunganui and Greerton CBDs.
Councillors have voted to move forward on a recommendation to revoke the begging and rough sleeping provisions in its Street Use and Public Places Bylaw 2018.
The vote narrowly passed by six votes to five in a council meeting on Tuesday.
Brian says he’s disappointed by the decision.
“The current bylaw is working well and all parties are working well under it including the council, the police and the beggars, and homeless themselves.
“If it was revoked, I think the likely behaviour of the beggars and the rough sleepers will be to encroach into the previously outlawed five meters of the retail premises and I really don't think that is a good thing.”
Deputy mayor Larry Baldock voted against revoking the by law and agrees that it has been working well.
“It was there to give some protection to retailers and it had been working in my opinion. It's a shame to see it revoked.”
Larry is in favour of keeping the bylaw but with amended wording that is agreed upon by the Tauranga Housing Advocacy Trust.
The trust have applied for judicial review because they are concerned the bylaw is a breach of the New Zealand Bill of Rights. A hearing date for the review has been set for March 5, 2020.
The new wording would negate the need for the hearing and save the council and rate payers legal costs, says Larry.
“I voted against revoking it and I would prefer to keep it with the amendment so that the message is still there, that within five meters of a retail premise you cannot beg.
“Although the new wording would have been you can't be a nuisance or intimidating.
“I've been a supporter of the by law all the time, right through from the beginning. I believe the retailers needed some assistance too.
“We were dealing with issues of people exploiting public begging.”
Councillor Heidi Hughes voted to revoke the ban because it’s the wrong response to this problem, she says.
“From my perspective, it did support one area of the community which needed support, which was the retailers.
“But on the other hand, it sends a very unbalanced message to some of our most vulnerable people to say that they are not welcome. There's better ways to go about addressing the issue than banning.”
She says the ban was put in place to support retailers because there were problems with aggressive behaviour from beggars and homeless but other than the ban there were no extra measures.
“There was no security measures or no upgraded police presence or anything. It was a signal that says you're not welcome here.”
If the ban is revoked she says council needs to work closely with retailers to come up with plan to ensure all parties are supported.
“We've got to be really mindful and clear about our direction and work together with them right from the start and take it seriously.”