1 Aug 2017

Twin towns divided over begging

7:15 pm on 1 August 2017

Napier City Council is hiring security guards to patrol its city centre a bid to curb antisocial behaviour by a group of beggars accused of threatening behaviour and open drug taking.

Higher prices for fruit, yoghurt and chicken pushed up food prices in December.

Higher prices for fruit, yoghurt and chicken pushed up food prices in December. Photo: 123rf

However, in neighbouring Hastings, a food recycling scheme is being credited with helping to reduce shoplifting and anti-social behaviour in the town centre.

Nourished for Nil takes unwanted food from shops and cafes and gives it to anyone who wants it from their premises.

The scheme was feeding 130-150 people each weekday and the vast majority who used its service did so because they were hungry, founder Christina McBeth said.

"We have a lot of hungry, working poor and the homeless...then we have middle class people who are passionate about food waste," she said.

Christina McBeth, the founder of Nourished For Nil.

Christina McBeth, the founder of Nourished For Nil. Photo: Supplied

Local retailers said antisocial behaviour and petty crimes like shoplifting had significantly reduced since the scheme was created six months ago.

"There's less shoplifting and we've heard other retailers say the same because people have full tummies....I think they're not so keen to shoplift when they're not hungry," Cornucopia Organics co-owner Kaye Keats said.

Napier hires security patrols

Nearby, Napier is using a very different approach to tackle its social problems.

The city council contracted a professional security company last week to patrol its city centre in a bid to crack down on anti-social behaviour by a group of beggars accused of threatening behaviour and open drug taking.

At the council's request, the police have dropped charges against three beggars charged with breaching a bylaw that forbids asking for money without permission.

A council spokesperson, Natasha Carswell, said it never intended for the bylaw to be used against beggars but it would review its stance if the security patrols did not work.

She said the council was aware of Hastings' success, but the roots of the antisocial behaviour in its own town were complex and needed different strategies.

The council believed security patrols were the best option for now, but that would be reviewed every couple of weeks.

Nourished for Nil said it hoped to extend its services to Napier, but Ms McBeth said the biggest barrier was finding volunteers.

Meanwhile, Hastings City Business Association general manger Susan McDade agreed Nourished for Nil was making a difference and local businesses were benefiting.

But she said other social programmes like the Hastings District Council funded City Assist Ambassadors had also been influential in creating social change.

"These people are amazing, they're not just ambassadors giving directions and helping out, but they're passive security and most importantly they're someone to talk to for people in need."

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