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Protesters at the Homeless Hiko during June.

Begging and rough sleeping in Tauranga, Greerton and Mount Maunganui CBDs will be banned from next year.

Tauranga City Council elected members voted 6-5 in favour of a bylaw which serves to enforce a ban on begging and rough sleeping, during a full council meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

The changes come after councillor Terry Molloy proposed to amend the current Street Use and Public Place Bylaw last November.

The stated purpose of the current bylaw is to ensure; public health and safety is maintained; to protect the public from nuisances; 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 also 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 about $215,000.

Councillor Leanne Brown indicated her opposition to the bylaw during this week’s meeting.

“Going ahead with this would mean we are not being truthful to our commitment of ending homelessness in Tauranga.

“We’ve already got some great processes in place, and amazing staff members working to build relationships with our hidden homeless population in Greerton.

“If we then start treating them differently we are going to lose that relationship and our ability to help.”

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She says the $215,000 associated with enforcement costs should be directed towards services throughout the city who are helping to support homeless and vulnerable people.

She has been supported by councillors John Robson, Catherine Stewart, Rick Curack and Steve Morris.

“This is your classic over promise and under deliver from council. Retailers have been sold a lie, it will not go anywhere to solving the problem on your doorstep,” says Cr Steve Morris.

“It’s not going to make an iota of difference, that’s one of the real tragedies of it all.”

Councillor Terry Molloy, who first proposed the ban, pledged to resign if the bylaw fails.

“No one truly understands this issue as much as I do.

“Do we really need to get like Auckland? We have been given a chance now to do something.

“This will not fail because we are not doing this on our own. We are looking after our community, we’re not clearing the streets.

“Yes, we are making it more difficult for beggars and rough sleepers to operate in certain places but we are not sweeping them under the carpet.

“It is a massive, multi-layered and complex problem and to try classify it into one sentence is not possible.

“If we keep doing what we’ve always done, we’ll keep getting what we’ve always got.

“I will be quite happy to resign, if come June there has been no change.”

He is supported by councillors Larry Baldock, Bill Grainger, Max Mason, deputy mayor Kelvin Clout and mayor Greg Brownless.

“Nobody likes to be seen as a basher of the homeless but someone does have to speak out on behalf of members of public and retailers,” says Kelvin.

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“This has had a negative impact on many business owners and their lives.

“We have worded the bylaw very carefully so it is limited to three geographical areas. We want to enforce this bylaw not in a strict way where we call the police, but in an educational way.”

Retailers have indicated their relief at the ban, particularly those in Greerton.

Sapan Shah, who runs the Greerton Food Market hoped the ban would make customers feel safe again.

“People do not stop here because when they walk in with the kids they are not feeling comfortable and safe so they’re going other places and not coming here.”

The bylaw change comes just as a verbal agreement has been secured on a property located in Tauranga’s Avenues, which act as a women’s shelter.

During public consultations on the Street Uses and Public Spaces bylaw the need for a women’s shelter was put forward in a submission.

Sacha Williams, who used to live on the streets in Tauranga, fled her Christchurch home due to an abusive relationship, and ended up in Tauranga.

She says she had great trouble seeking accommodation from backpackers at the time, who refused to take her in, but eventually found a home in Gate Pa. She highlighted the need for a Women’s Shelter in Tauranga during the submission.

Over the past five months He Kaupapa Kotahitanga Trust (comprised of community members who are already leading initiatives to help the city’s homeless and displaced population) has lobbied to bring the shelter to fruition.

Chairperson Angela Wallace says the trust is overjoyed that a verbal agreement has been set down.

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“We are stoked to announce a verbal agreement on a building for our women’s shelter.”

The shelter will be called Awhina House.

“It’s a safe place to sleep and offers ongoing support for displaced women in Tauranga Moana.

“Rough sleeping women, those sleeping in the shadows, in their cars and in garages will now have a safe place to sleep and the support to find permanent housing.”

Currently only a men’s shelter exists in Tauranga.

Angela says the new property is 13 bedrooms, and features large open-plan living areas with a safe, private and secure backyard.

She says there is still a long way to go to establish the shelter, with funding still needed.

A Givealittle page has been set up, to help raise funds to go towards building the shelter. Donate here: https://givealittle.co.nz/org/community-angels-tauranga

How councillors voted on the amended Street Use and Public Place Bylaw:

For:
Cr. Kelvin Clout
Cr. Larry Baldock
Cr. Bill Grainger
Cr. Terry Molloy
Cr. Max Mason
Mayor Greg Brownless

Against:
Cr. John Robson
Cr. Leanne Brown
Cr. Steve Morris
Cr. Catherine Stewart
Cr. Rick Curach

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