Opportunistic begging, gang tactics on rise in Capital

From Morning Report, 8:46 am on 17 February 2017

Wellington businesses are worried that there a group of beggars who are running shifts at prime spots in the city.

A person dressed as a gorilla begging in Wellington.

A person dressed as a gorilla begging in Wellington. Photo: RNZ - Michael Cropp

Shop owners say they are losing patience over what they call gang tactics among beggars.

The First Retail Group director, Chris Wilkinson, says there are now more people begging in Wellington, and he says many of them are opportunists.

He says rosters being enforced at the prime spots and people are being stationed around the city.

And retailers say change is needed.

One shop owner, who didn't want to be named for fear of reprisals against his staff, says he frequently has several beggars outside and that it has become a health and safety issue for his workers.

He says he sees them swapping money for items, probably drugs, on the street outside his store.

At a small takeaway shop on Manners Mall, the owner and cook says he's had meals stolen, he's been intimidated, and has had to call the police.

The doors to the 24-hour Internet cafe above him were broken recently, after some of the so-called beggars got in a fight.

Jenny Rains, the council's community services manager, says there's not a lot the council can do to move people on, or clamp down on the opportunists.

Ms Rains says the council will soon review its public spaces bylaw to see if there's more it can do.

Horomona Mason, who's slept rough for two-and-a-half-years, says the opportunists have hardened people's hearts against the real problems of homelessness, and mean that people like himself go without.

Mr Mason says people need to be employed, have a sense of direction in their life; and he wants people to know he's had it hard and he could have done with more support from the government.