Just a quick Poverty Watch this week, on Auckland’s beggar ban. Here’s the short version:
Auckland’s begging ban bylaw passes
Beggars who are deemed intimidating or causing a nuisance will be banished from Auckland’s streets under a bylaw, passed today by Auckland Council.
There has been very little public debate on the issue. This Brian Rudman column stands out:
Beggars need help, not a kicking
Five years ago, right-wing Auckland City councillor Paul Goldsmith – now a National list MP – was “gravely concerned with the prevalence of rough sleepers in Auckland City” and called for new laws that allowed police “to do their job – picking people up and moving them somewhere else”.
This week, left-wing Auckland Councillor Mike Lee is chairing a bylaw committee contemplating outlawing beggars causing “a nuisance”.
The conundrum, both five years ago and now, is, “and then what?” Under the Local Government Act, defiers of city bylaws can be fined up to $20,000. But chances are, a beggar doesn’t have the money for a hamburger, let alone a fine. Which leaves the lock-up. But history suggests that doesn’t work either. …
The beggars are not necessarily homeless, or addicts or criminals. But sitting out on the cold pavement in mid-winter, with a handwritten sign and a cap, is surely a hint to a caring community to offer the person a helping hand, not a kick in the backside.
Unfortunately Rudman’s compassion is not shared by the majority of The Herald’s selfish readership:
At 1.30pm, a poll on nzherald.co.nz found 69 per cent were in favour of a ban, with 22 per cent against and 9 per cent unsure.
So now the ban is in place. What sort of country are we, that when seeing a social problem we want to sweep it under the carpet instead of understanding and fixing the cause? Auckland is going to “move” the beggars on, but Rudman’s question remains. Then what?
Here’s the standard footnote. Poverty (and inequality) were falling (albeit too slowly) under the last Labour government. Now they are on the rise again, in fact a Waikato University professor says that poverty is our biggest growth industry.
Before the last election Labour called for a cross party working group on poverty. Key turned the offer down. Report after report after report has condemned the rate of poverty in this country, and called on the government to act. Meanwhile 40,000 kids are fed by charities and up to 80,000 are going to school hungry. National has responded with complete denial of the issues, saying that the government is already doing enough to help families feed their kids. Organisations working with the poor say that Key is in poverty ‘la la land’.
The Nats refuse to even measure the problem (though they certainly believe in measurement and goals when it suits them to bash beneficiaries). In a 2012 summary of the government’s targets and goals John Armstrong wrote: “Glaringly absent is a target for reducing child poverty”…
The costs of child poverty are in the range of $6-8 Billion per year, but the Nats refuse to spend the $2 Billion that would be needed to really make a difference. Even in purely economic terms National’s attitude makes no sense.