13 Apr 2016

Beggars won't be banned in Wellington

5:45 pm on 13 April 2016

Wellington City Council has decided to abandon a suggestion to ban begging in the central city.

It's opted for what it's calling a 'street-management approach' instead - sending officers to talk to beggars and refer them to social agencies.

The council heard submissions today from police and other agencies, with businesses in Newtown calling for a begging ban in their suburb.

Newtown businesses pleaded to the council to introduce a begging ban in their area after numerous problems with beggars near the suburb's mall.

Jackson asking for help in central Christchurch.

Photo: RNZ/ Katy Gosset

David Wilcock, from the Newtown Business Group, told the council begging needed to be outlawed in his neighbourhood.

"I believe it will have a significant impact to protect our communities...the vulnerable, the old, the young, even I've been confronted - I've had two young guys have a go at me. I felt threatened. Should we accept this as part of our community? We certainly shouldn't."

Beggars were causing customers to turn away, he said.

"Our businesses are wasting their resources, we're losing money, people are not coming to use our business because they're put off, this is what's happening in the mall particularly. People don't want to be confronted."

Inspector Terry van Dillen said police were worried about the public's safety and the council needed to decide how to address beggars who refused help from social agencies.

"The question begs, there will be members of the public that will think this also - you can put a lot of time and a lot of effort into a lot of people, if they don't engage or don't want that time and effort, and they carry on doing what they're doing, making members of our community feel unsafe in our city... as a council, as a group, as police, what are we gonna do about it?"

The public needed to be educated on how to best help those in need, he said.

"These people have serious social issues around alcohol or tobacco or whatever it may be, mental health.

"Giving them money is fuelling the fire, you'd say for some of them...If the person thinks they're hungry or might want a cup of coffee, that's fine. Buy them food or buy them a coffee, but once you start giving them money, you could well be just adding to their addiction."

Community, Sport & Recreation Committee chairperson Paul Eagle said the council came to the right decision.

"The decision to not implement a bylaw that bans begging was the right one. What we heard today was that we needed to take a much more hands on approach.

"We heard there was no silver bullet, we heard the council couldn't do it alone, and we needed all the help that we could get from Central Government agencies."

The council will start a co-ordinated response with social agencies to look at what causes people to beg.

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