Man holding sign for spare change at traffic lights says 'extra money' is worth it despite 'aggression' from motorists

The man, who Newshub chose not to name, claims he makes around $400 on a good day.
The man, who Newshub chose not to name, claims he makes around $400 on a good day. Photo credit: File.

An Auckland man who holds a sign asking for 'spare change' says despite seeing aggression from some motorists, the money he gets is worth it.

The man, who Newshub chose not to name, was seen holding a sign at a busy intersection in central Auckland that read: "Hi good people spare change please".  

Speaking to Newshub, he said he makes around $400 on a "good day".

"We do it twice a day and do about $200 at the top and $200 down here," the man said. "On a ratshit day, it would be about $150." 

Following COVID-19 and the rise in electronic payments, not all people carry cash. But sometimes when there's a line of cars waiting, those who do give him money are prompted by others.

"This is what you call a 'chain reaction'... if one person passes out, a whole lot of them pass," he explained.

He sees "all the aggression" from motorists, which he tries to laugh off.

"I just come up with different kinds of facials, if there's an angry face…I'll just make a bit of fun about it," he added.

He said he uses the money he gets to support his family.  

"I'm getting the benefit as well. This is extra money…you do need extra money." 

The Salvation Army supports people on low incomes, including "rough sleepers", and said many single people living on sickness or unemployment benefits don't have enough to meet living costs. 

"Once they've paid rent, there is usually not much left for anything else...they are begging just to meet their basic needs," the spokesperson said. 

But there are some instances where relying on the kindness of strangers can earn more than people expect.

According to the Inland Revenue, if a person is offering services for a fee, or purchasing goods to re-sell them for profit that's used for living expenses, it's likely to be regarded as taxable income.

"Inland Revenue and Work & Income have an information-sharing arrangement and information regarding income from the hawking activities would eventually be made available to Work & Income," the spokesperson said. 

So how much can people on a benefit earn?

From April 1, 2021, abatement thresholds increased, allowing people on Jobseeker Support benefits to earn more through work before their benefit payments are affected. 

"The changes mean people can earn up to $160 a week [8 hours at the minimum wage of $20] before their benefit starts to be affected," Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni said.

Once the $160 threshold is met, Jobseeker Support payments reduce by 70c in the dollar.

Mark Parkinson, team leader compliance at Auckland City Council estimates around 10 complaints about begging are received from the public each month.  

Under the 2013 Public Safety and Nuisance Bylaw, which sets out rights for sharing of public places, begging is not a breach unless there's an element of intimidation or safety risk.

"Aucklanders can call or email the council with concerns on 09 301 0101, or if there is a safety issue, report the matter to the NZ Police," Parkinson said.