A bylaw banning begging and rough sleeping in Tauranga, Greerton and Mount Maunganui CBDs will come into effect from next year.
Elected members voted 6-5 in favour of the Street Uses and Public Spaces bylaw during a full council meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
The changes are part of the draft Street Use and Public Place Bylaw, which was proposed by councillor Terry Molloy last November.
The stated purpose of the current Bylaw is to ensure public health and safety is maintained, to protect the public from nuisance, minimise the potential for offensive behaviour and to manage public places for the well-being and enjoyment of the public.
Approved changes to the bylaw will see the introduction of a ban on begging and rough sleeping in any public space within five metres of any retail premises in Greerton, Tauranga and Mount Maunganui CBDs from April 1, 2019.
It will give council the authority to enforce the bylaw by imposing a fine to those in breach of it. Council has indicated the estimated costs for enforcement will be around $215,000.
Those in opposition to the bylaw included councillors John Robson, Leanne Brown, Steve Morris, Catherine Stewart and Rick Curack.
Cr John Robson has called the bylaw “gesture politics” and an “embarrassment”, and urged members of council supporting it to think again.
“The council has failed to provide a place for these people to go,” says John, “and until this happens we are taking an action that we know will fail.
“We shouldn’t be in this place. What we should be doing is providing this $215,000, or more, to the victims.
“Insisting that we clear the streets is treating these people like they are waste.”
His comments are supported by Cr Leanne Brown.
“Going ahead with this would mean we are not being truthful to our commitment of ending homelessness in Tauranga,” she says.
She listed a number of community groups and initiatives working to support the city’s most vulnerable, including Kai Aroha, Street Kai, Te Tuinga Whanau and He Kaupapa Kotahitanga Trust, and challenged the $215,000 associated with enforcement costs, suggesting the funds should be directed towards these services instead.
Those in favour of the bylaw include mayor Greg Brownless, deputy mayor Kelvin Clout and councillors Larry Baldock, Bill Grainger, Max Mason and Terry Molloy.
Terry Molloy, who first proposed the ban, made a commitment to quit his job if the bylaw doesn’t work.
“I am willing to put my job on the line,” says Terry.
Deputy mayor Kelvin Clout says his viewpoint represents the interests of retailers and members of public.
“It’s time to put a line in the sand,” he says. “We’ve been through this half-a-dozen times already. We need to move on, get it sorted and get this passed.”
His views are supported by Cr Larry Baldock.
“The problem is not going away,” says Larry. “People should have the freedom to enter retail outlets without being harassed at the door.”
Tauranga retailers have described the ban as a ‘relief’.
Raghbir Kaur, who owns a $2 Shop in Greerton, says beggars affected her business and she had been left feeling helpless.
"Homeless people ask for money and customers don't like it, they complain to me about it.
"I can't do anything with them I have no right to say anything to them."
However, Sacha Williams, who used to live on the streets in Tauranga says there's no need for it.
"I've spent a lot of time in Greerton. I've seen the odd spaz out, but no, I don't know what they're talking about personally."
Last week, community organisations indicated they were working on their own solutions to support the city’s homeless population.
Members of He Kaupapa Kotahitanga Trust, a recently formed collective helping to establish a women’s shelter in Tauranga, are fronting a community-led initiative to help support Tauranga’s most vulnerable.
The group has been hosting Street Retreat, a drop-in centre held at Holy Trinity Church for the past three weeks.
The drop-in centre has been described as a practical daily solution to support the city’s most vulnerable.
In addition, the group has secured a verbal agreement to establish a women’s shelter in Tauranga.