Tauranga Council to be challenged in court over ban on rough sleepers and beggars

A team of lawyers is planning on taking Tauranga City Council to court over a new bylaw meant to stop people begging and sleeping rough near shopping districts.

Housing advocate and lawyer Shard Loibl told The AM Show on Monday that the new law is needlessly targeting people at their most vulnerable.

"We do have a team of lawyers working on this at the moment. We are going to challenge this because we do feel that it's a breach of their human rights.

"They're at the low of the lows, living on the street rough sleeping and now unfortunately they're going to get fined for it."

Loibl says punishing people financially is not the answer to homelessness.

"These people have no money, so when they do get fined... It feels quite pointless to be persecuting them for living on the streets and fining them instead of trying to find a solution."

However, councillor Terry Molloy says council is already aware that fines are not a practical reaction and "won't be effective".

Instead he says that a combination of subtle pressure and education will be used to move homeless people to provided accommodation.

"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.

Loibl says there are agencies available for people who need help with their living arrangements, like The People's Project, but they can only do so much with a lack of housing available.

"There are agencies around Tauranga that can support the homeless but unfortunately there are no homes.

"At least in the city they have shelter, they have cover, they have wind protection, you know, where do they go?"

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.

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

Local MP Simon Bridges is in favour of the bylaw, claiming the council has been "far, far too soft" on the city's homelessness issue.

"My understanding is a similar bylaw has worked pretty well, not without exception, in Nelson and Hamilton," Bridges told RadioLIVE in 2018.

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