Beggars banned from asking for money within five metres of shops in some Tauranga suburbs

A controversial move on Monday will see people banned from begging and sleeping rough within five metres of shops in some Tauranga suburbs.

The new bylaw, which affects Tauranga City CBD, Greerton and Mount Maunganui stores, was proposed after reports last year that organised begging gangs from out of town were making up to $300 a day.

While some shopkeepers suggest it will be good for business, charities believe it will further marginalise some of the city's most vulnerable.

Paul Abbey begs on Tauranga streets when he's starving, with a day of begging getting him $20-$30 of food money.

"I had to let go of my pride, I felt a lot of shame," he says.

But as rents skyrocket in Tauranga, Abbey has been forced into living in a tent and believes banning begging outside shops will further push people like him into the shadows.

"We're still human beings, people need to survive somehow."

There are claims some of the beggars acted aggressively towards shoppers, especially in Greerton.

Copyman Owner Daniel Hughes started the campaign and suggests the beggars can have a negative impact on business.

"It's not beneficial to us to have somebody stopping our customers coming through the doors and making them feel like they shouldn't be here," he says.

Councillor Terry Molloy says beggars were killing the local economy and the Council is trying its best to deal with an addition, housing and mental health crisis which has spilled onto the streets.

"It will be a softly, softly approach. We will just try and work with them to say they can't stay there that they need to move," Molloy says.

Tommy Kapai Wilson, who helps house many of the city's homeless, believes no one needs to beg for food, but instead they beg to feed a synthetics addiction.

"I don't believe it's pushing them into the shadows it's actually giving them the opportunity to get help," he says.

But other Tauranga charity groups told Newshub most of those who beg do so just to survive.

One 21-year-old beggar says if she couldn't beg for money, she would "probably go hungry".

But there are also concerns moving rough sleepers away from brightly lit shop fronts will be a safety risk.

Housing advocate Shard Loibl acknowledges there are some problem with beggars but says punishing all isn't the solution.

"Instead of addressing the problem itself they've just tried to throw a blanket over it," said Loibl.

Loibl plans to appeal the bylaw in the High Court and is worried if it goes unchallenged, councils around New Zealand may join Tauranga in banning beggars.


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