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Outlawing Begging

Written By: - Date published: 10:00 am, July 5th, 2013 - 37 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, local government, poverty, uncategorized - Tags: , , , ,

too-many-beggars

Ironically during the week of Auckland’s big sleep out there has been a proposal to change Auckland Council’s by laws to provide for the fining of beggars.  The proposal has been described as overdue by some.  But everyone seems to have overlooked the fact that begging is already banned in Auckland City.

The proposal reminds me of the the famous saying by Anatole France that “[t]he law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich and the poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread”.  Begging is a pretty sure sign of poverty and to fine the poor for begging will only make strained personal circumstances worse.

The John Banks Auckland City Council enacted Bylaw No 20 – Public Places 2008 which included in the definition of “street trading” the “soliciting or collection of any subscription or donation”.  In John Banks’ Auckland beggars needed to apply for a licence before they could beg.  Someone found begging without a permit could be required to leave the area.  Failure to do so would constitute an offence punishable by a fine of up to $20,000.

That particular piece of madness was the brainchild of now National List MP Paul Goldsmith.   He seemed to be particularly upset that the homeless made Auckland look messy, and he proposed changes to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act so that police officers could pick beggars up and move them on.

That Council budgeted $220,000 for security guards to deal with the homeless.  At the time it was estimated that there were 91 people sleeping rough within 3km of the Sky Tower.  This sum could have gone a considerable way to alleviating their hardship.

More recently Palmerston North City Council contemplated enacting a by law that would allow it to fine people begging on its streets.  The report on the proposal had some chilling content.  The officer preparing the report did an interesting thing and went out and talked to the beggars themselves.  Some were homeless.  Most were on benefits.  All but one had mental health problems.

The report noted that prosecutions are expensive and high handed and require considerable resources.  Why waste resources on lawyers when these resources will do a lot of good in helping the poor?  When canvassing options the report suggested that the “problem” may be capable of social resolution.  Thankfully Palmerston North Council saw sense and followed this suggestion.

In Auckland the New Beginnings Court pioneered by Judge Tony Fitzgerald has shown how effective social resolution can be.  Therapeutic intervention has seen a 60% drop in offending amongst the homeless involved in the pilot.

So I hope Auckland Council adopts a therapeutic approach to begging.  I do not believe it right that the poor and unwell should be open to significant fines for sleeping under bridges or for begging in the streets.

37 comments on “Outlawing Begging”

  1. Sanctuary 1

    I know some council people, and according to them this story is a typical Herald tabloid beat up. AFAIK, this is more about clearing out the increasingly aggressive charity collectors in Queen Street than it is about moving on homeless people. The number of collectors has apparently reached epidemic proportions, with workers actually afraid to go out and buy their lunches such is the level of daily harassment.

  2. Nicolas 2

    Some of the comments on the Herald were pretty shocking. According to their poll, 69% of Aucklanders approved of the banning. The idea that begging is a “lifestyle choice” is so absurd I honestly doubt people truly believe it.

    I suspect criminologist John Braithwaite’s findings, on people’s punitive attitudes expressed in opinion polls, apply here as well. He found that “as citizens get closer and closer to making judgements about particular offenders based on a detailed understanding of the background of the offence, they get less and less punitive.”

    Really, I find it hard to believe so many people are so cold. The “lifestyle choice” BS is probably only shared (truly) by a small minority of the population.

    • Delia 2.2

      New Zealanders did not used to be cold. We have created a dog eat dog environment and the days of many New Zealanders caring about its disadvantaged are well over. We see this with continual beneficiary bashing on comments boards. Most of these commentators never comment on the fact that we have very reduced mental health residential care and chronic unemployment in New Zealand. No, some poor lost soul on the street, has the option of a lifestyle choice apparently. It lies with the younger generations to get some compassion. It is over to them. My generation is almost gone. I am a tail end baby boomer and I have given up on what to do about the hatred many younger New Zealanders express for those on the margins.

  3. karol 3

    Excellent post, micky. I support tackling the underlying causes of begging. And while this government does everything to work against that, I think the council,should not attempt to suppress the evidence of poverty and inequalities on our streets.

    • mickysavage 3.1

      Agreed karol. Moving them on only makes their plight worse and makes the rest of us think there is not a problem …

    • dumrse 3.2

      What a fucking cheek. Don’t blame Government, its an Auckland City Council initiative.

  4. Descendant Of Sssmith 4

    If people are feeling uncomfortable about the effects of the policies they support then tough shit.

    Surely they should be happy about the entrepreneurial nature of homelessness and begging.

    Out of bed before lunchtime
    No need for a food grant
    Not living beyond their means in expensive rental accomodation
    Less use of electricity and petrol
    Prefers charity to welfare

    Fuck it’s a right wingers wet dream.

    They should be encouraging them.

    Maybe they are just anticipating the growth coming along shortly.

  5. Rogue Trooper 5

    “I had noticed that both in the very poor and very rich extremes of society, the mad were often allowed to mingle freely”.
    -Charles Bukowski

    “To be ill-adjusted to a deranged world is not a breakdown”.
    Jeanette Winterson.

    “Don’t ask me those questions! Don’t ask me what life means or how we know reality or why we have to suffer so much. Don’t talk about how nothing feels real, how every thing is coated with gelatin and shining like oil in the sun. I don’t want to hear about the tiger in the corner or the Angel of Death or the phone calls from John the Baptist”.
    -Susanna Kaysen – Girl Interrupted.

  6. Mary 6

    Palmerston North City Council’s response in some ways is even worse because it assumes an acceptance of the social and economic divisions between the haves and have nots. The RWNJs keep telling us that begging is unnecessary because we have a social welfare system but this system has co-opted private charity as a “legitimate” form of welfare to address income inadequacy. Charity has been around for centuries and the need for it will always be with us. The difference between the role of charity, say, twenty years ago and now is that it’s not just for those who due to personal circumstances other than income inadequacy, such as for example family violence, addiction, lack of skills etc (traditionally a very small group overall). Your average person who but for income inadequacy is now forced to resort to private charity whether it be food banks or begging on the street because the safety net is no longer there. Unfortunately our responses to date have not been to challenge the real causes of income inadequacy but to accept more and more private charity as a legitimate way of meeting basic needs of those on low incomes. Kicking beggars off the street because members of the business elite think it blots the landscape and putting donation boxes in the street instead will be visual reminders that we’ve accepted our social welfare system as inadequate and that there’s nothing we can do about it. Is this really the kind of society we want?

  7. vto 7

    Fancy outlawing the poor………

    The homeless should get together and issue a remit banning rich wankers from Queens Street.

    • Descendant Of Sssmith 7.1

      If the streets don’t belong to the poor then who do they belong to and where do the poor belong?

      • Mary 7.1.1

        While begging on our streets especially the type of begging we see today is a sad indictment on the abysmal state of our current social welfare system, and for this reason it would be preferable of course not to have the numbers of people begging that we now see, I do not think any by-law could ever be strong enough to prevent it. Other offences such as harassment or disorderly behaviour can be used to deal with people who the business elite claim are “intimating”, if in fact this is true to the extent they’d have us believe. What about the person sitting quietly on the edge of the footpath with a bowl and a sign, doing nothing but sitting there? What can be the basis of a by-law that purports to prevent this? I don’t think any by-law that aims to stamp all “begging” out in such a wholesale manner could ever withstand a NZ Bill of Rights Act challenge, and would therefore be easily be knocked over. By-laws surely aren’t the right mechanism that could lawfully remove a person’s right to be in the street. Civil liberties lawyers will be quick to test this as soon as it happens.

  8. s y d 8

    Begging exposes the myths that we cling to..our supposed egalitarian, compassionate, fair society.
    It’s disturbing to have the human consequences of our (in)actions in plain sight, makes you think that maybe something isn’t right…people shouldn’t have to beg in NZ should they? We look out for each other don’t we?
    Much better to pull that curtain closed again, turn up the TV and believe everything is great and good. The brighter future is near, there is a light at the end of the tunnel…

  9. r0b 9

    Welcome aboard MS – an excellent development…

  10. One Anonymous Knucklehead 10

    “Whether it’s attempting to destroy our public transport options, demanding that we build more McMansions, or driving hundreds if not thousands of Kiwis to begging on the streets, this government hates Auckland and Aucklanders. We’ve had a gutsful, but we will not turn our backs on our people.”

    There you go Len.

  11. Winston Smith 11

    Before the beggers I’d start with getting rid of the window washers at lights…

    • One Anonymous Knucklehead 11.1

      First they came for the window washers at the lights, but I did not speak out because I was not a window washer. Not at the lights, anyway.

  12. Populuxe1 12

    If someone reformed the welfare system (by which I mean make it better rather than worse for the unemployed and low incomed), I would have no problem at all with banning begging.

    • weka 12.1

      If the welfare system was reformed to truly support vulnerable people, the unemployed etc, then you wouldn’t need to ban begging.

  13. Lefty 13

    During the late 80s I was part of a discussion, with a group of other people who worked in the community sector, about what the likely impacts on future generations the neo liberal programme Labour had unleashed were likely to be.

    Generally we thought that people would eventually see through the nonsense Douglas, Goff, Clark, Mallard, Prebble, King and a bunch of other poisonous bastards were pushing, and their egalatarian instincts would reassert themselves.

    We did worry about ‘Rogers Children’ though i.e. young people who were subject to neo liberal propaganda from the moment they were able to communicate.

    We worried that a new generation would have only one frame of reference and that would make it difficult to imagine a world that was not based totally on dog eat dog principles.

    We actually got it quite wrong.

    While a large percentage of the population is unable to imagine a world organised on lines other than the way it is (just as it has always been difficult for people to do so), in my experience this is not limited to any particular generation.

    Many of those who grew up aware of alternatives seem to have totally forgotten about them and become convinced their is no alternative to what we have, and on the other hand there is a good sized bunch of young people who question the present paradigm.

    So people haven’t fundamentally changed all that much.

    What has happened is worse in many ways, certainly more difficult to turn around.

    What has happened is the public institutions that inform and lead debates, like the press, the universities and schools, churches, social commentators,unions, parliament, political parties and the public service have completely lost the plot and are simply unable to lead, or even participate usefully in any discussion about values, economics, ethics, political ideas or how to bring about any real change.

    This leaves much of the population alienated, frightened and confused: conditions that are easily manipulated into being turned into hatred and disregard for ‘outsiders’.

    The only way forward is a mass rebellion that discards these disgraced institutions and sets a new course – hopefully one that involves the replacement of capitalism with ecosocialism.

    I just hope I am around to see it.

    • weka 13.1

      I think *that* is the comment of the day.

      • Suitably Clueless 13.1.1

        Yes, I want to copy it and hand it out around my area like some sort of mormon tract.

    • mickysavage 13.2

      Thanks lefty.

      Your comment is very perceptive. When I think of my kids (in their early 20s) and their friends and other young people I have the pleasure of dealing with I believe that there is hope for the future.

      The state infrastructure is doing its best to make us all happy compliant consumers indifferent to the plight of everyone else but there is still this thread of dissent that shows up time and time again.

      The institutions may be compliant but new groups and movements appear all the time. You just have to look overseas to see the major revolutions that are happening. NZ is still a sleepy happy country but there is a basic decency amongst most kiwis and once their sense of unfairness or injustice is triggered they will respond.

      As for the post the point I wanted to make is that the economics do not make sense. Auckland could spend huge amounts of money hiding the sight of poverty but could save money by addressing the problem. The most cold hearted accountant would conclude that we should be compassionate to the poor because it will actually be cheaper. The rest of us would be happy to spend the money and satisfied that we did something to improve the plight of the poorest amongst us.

  14. Penny Bright 14

    Hi folks!

    Seen this?

    https://www.facebook.com/events/384259328352958/

    Saturday 6 July 2013
    Outside Smith and Caugheys
    253-261 Queen St Assetkeepers Auckland

    12:00pm until 1:00pm

    Chance of Rain 61°F / 55°F

    Smith and Caughey’s have asked Auckland City Council to ban all beggars from the streets. We’re going to beg Smith and Caughey’s to leave the beggars alone. Bring a sign to beg with, but beware the Millionaires Against Moochers, dressed to impress with top hats or formal gowns who may try to sweep us all under the carpet and out of their sight.

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/politics/news/article.cfm?c_id=280&objectid=10894464
    ________________________________________________________________________

    I’ll be there. This is not the first time that corporate-controlled Auckland Council has attempted to deny the lawful rights of citizens to what I consider to be ‘freedom of expression’.

    As an Auckland Mayoral candidate – I support those who are amongst the most marginalised of the 99%, who choose to make the world aware of their plight through signage and some container for those who care and are able to make personal donations to help them.

    As one of the two successful Appellants in the Occupy Auckland vs Auckland Council Appeal – I am prepared to help challenge the ‘legality’ of Auckland Council’s proposed by-law, by raising this matter directly with Council.

    From where have Auckland Council been getting ‘legal’ advice on this matter?

    From their, (in my considered opinion) unprofessional and incompetent General Counsel, Wendy Brandon, who has proven to be a LIAR (over the amount of Auckland Council public monies that were spent on Occupy Auckland legal proceedings)?

    http://www.occupyaucklandvsa/ ucklandcouncilappeal.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/OCCUPY-AUCKLAND-APPEAL-APPLICATION-BY-APPELLANT-BRIGHT-TO-ADDUCE-

    Penny Bright

    ‘Anti-corruption / anti-privatisation’ campaign

    2013 Auckland Mayoral candidate

    • Mary 14.1

      I think you’re right about the legality of using a by-law to oust begging. I think the only thing that can do that is primary legislation. Problem with that, though, is whether that’s politically viable for government, or even whether it’d get the numbers when Bill of Rights concerns would be so strong. Would be good to hear what MS thinks of the legality around use of by-laws on an issue like begging.

      Great stuff, Penny. Keep sticking it to them.

  15. Bill 15

    On the bright side of this tripe – next time the banks come a-running….

    Aw, fuck. I forgot. Those whose money has been gambled away are to pay back to the gamblers the money they gambled away. No need for the fuckers to beg next time.

  16. Colinj & Tanz 16

    It’s indeed a sad indictment on the coldness of the council. I agree, too many people blame the homeless rather than having a caring view. If someone has a home, job, income etc, what right do they have to judge the needy and less fortunate? Shouldn’t we do what we can to help? Jesus would not have approved banning homeless people. The gap between haves and have-nots is becoming a widening sea. Does anyone in power/council care?

  17. Murray Olsen 17

    I wonder if Banks ever solicited a donation off Dot Com in a public place. It’d be lovely to see him convicted under Bylaw No 20 – Public Places 2008.

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    The reckless dangling of tax cuts by the National Government is all the more irresponsible when it is put alongside the failure to pay down debt or put money aside for future superannuation costs, says Labour’s Finance Spokesperson Grant Robertson. ...
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