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What should Auckland Council do about begging

Written By: - Date published: 9:51 am, April 7th, 2016 - 55 comments
Categories: auckland supercity, local government - Tags: , , ,


A couple of Mayoral candidates on the right of politics have recently proposed that Councils should take punitive steps to stop begging.

In Auckland Mark Thomas wants a tougher bylaw to end street begging for good although he admits that the problem is complex and needs Central Government action.  From One News:

Mark Thomas says the issues of begging and homelessness is not a problem for the council to solve alone, and labelled Len Brown’s 10-year plan “ineffective”.

“Auckland Council is not making fast enough progress,” he says.

“It’s not fair that some people use our streets and public places for their own ends, even if they clearly need help.”

The current bylaw, enforced in 2013 by Len Brown, requires beggars to intimidate or cause a nuisance in order to be removed.

Mr Thomas says the government needs to “meet its responsibility” to end the issue of begging, while the council focuses on ensuring “streets and public places are respected”.

 Temporary shelters such as vacant government and council houses could be a solution, he says.

“Police and other groups can take homeless people there and make it easier for government and other support agencies to reach them.”

In Wellington his National Party Counterpart Nicola Young is suggesting that begging in the CBD should be banned.  Again from One News:

Begging is often driven by addiction (drugs and alcoholism) and crime; sadly mental health issues complicate matters further. People assume beggars are homeless, but that’s rarely the case” Ms Young posted.

She then went on to explain the increase in numbers was partly due to Wellington’s relative wealth and blamed current Mayor Celia Wade-Brown for not developing real solutions, instead making the situation worse.

“As Mayor I will introduce a by-law banning begging in the CBD and near cash machines – the most lucrative spots in our city – as part of a larger strategy involving the Police, WINZ, the DHB and charities,” she said.

It is good that they both agree that the causes of homelessness are complex.  But thinking that a by law, where the usual sanction is a fine, is a potential solution ignores the fact that poverty and an associated inability to pay fines is a significant contributor to the problem.

It is good that the approach of the conservatives is being moderated and they want to address causes of homelessness.  Previously the approach adopted was less worried about causes and more about taking punitive action.  For instance in 2008 then Auckland City Councillor and current Minister of the Crown Paul Goldsmith championed a bylaw under which someone found begging without a permit could be required to leave the area.  Failure to do so would constitute an offence punishable a fine of up to $20,000.

At the time the Council budgeted $220,000 for security guards to move the homeless on.  The problem was not huge at the time and this sum could have provided shelter for many of them.  As noted at the time by current Councillor Cathy Casey,

For as long as there has been a city here there have been rough sleepers. The problem is not huge. The latest count found 91 people sleeping rough within 3km of the Sky Tower – down from the 120 the year before.

A few years ago Palmerston North thought about a bylaw but its staff did something quite innovative.  They interviewed the local homeless people to try and determine what the causes of their being homeless were.

As I noted previously the staff report recorded that most were on benefits and that all but one had mental health problems.

What are the current dynamics at play?  Clearly there is a housing affordability crisis in Auckland which a bylaw has no hope of addressing.  And there are concerning signs that the social welfare net is not working as well as it should do.  Last quarter the Labour Market Statistics released by the Government showed a reduction in the Labour force participation rate for the third quarter in a row.  Instead of looking for work this suggests that more people are giving up looking for work.

And what can a Council do?  Imposing fines will not work.  As stated in that 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”.  The best a Council can do is address poverty and its causes.

Reprinted from gregpresland.com.

55 comments on “What should Auckland Council do about begging ”

  1. NoThanks 1

    Sitting on the footpath with legs stretched nearly to its middle, shovelling one’s hands in pedestrians’ faces intimidatingly in the CBD is not acceptable. Auckland should not tolerate what is happening in San Francisco.

    • weka 1.1

      I’m kind of curious how someone can be sitting on the ground and shovelling their hands in pedestrians’ faces. Except I’m not really, because your just expressing your bigotry.

      I would have thought the CBD was entirely the appropriate place to beg. Not much point in doing it out in the country.

      • adam 1.1.1

        The could ask the dairy cows for some some change weka.

        Oh wait, they are broke to.

        • saveNZ

          Ha Ha, with Fonterra and neoliberalism some parts of Fonterra are broke (the farmers and producers) but others surprise surprise are posting 123% profits (even though that is the bit that seems to have been forgotten by Fonterra management in their quest to produce as much commodity as possible). Always good to have 2 sets of data so you can use it to management advantage.

      • greywarshark 1.1.2

        You are right. Auckland should not be following what San Fransisco does if they have beggars, we should be providing them with shelter and some place they can drop into and perhaps spend some time doing something with a team, making something useful. And have a place to stay, and some decent food to eat. Then they can busk or learn music so they can busk to get some pocket money. Because music is good for the soul. You should learn to play music too No Thanks, and discover if you have a soul.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.2

      Sounds to me like the problem is pedestrian intellect.

  2. adam 2

    The people running for mayor sound like members of the T4 programme to me.

    • weka 2.1

      what’s T4?

      • adam 2.1.1


        This mayoral candidates are using some of the same arguments which helped get the T4 programme off the ground. I’m just making a historical comparison, with some justification.

        Before Gosman, or another person tries to derail what I have said – this programme is what is being compared and I’m not calling anyone a fascist. Even if the policies just happen to look and sound similar, and the rhetoric and intent beg the question about making comparisons. I’m doing nothing more than pointing out that the T4 programme was the place where many of these ideas gained traction into policy.

  3. roy cartland 3

    Nicola Young is the most hateful of the bunch. Banning begging – why doesn’t she just ban poverty or mental health? As ludicrous as it is cruel.

    • weizguy 3.1

      What we need is a progressive mayoral candidate with a little bit of compassion. I wonder if any other candidates have anything to say about this issue?

  4. The Chairman 4

    Wellington considers making it illegal to give money to beggars.

    One suggestion was launching a “kindness can kill” campaign that links begging to drug use and deters the public from giving.


    • weka 4.1

      That’d be one law I’d be pretty happy to break.

      Wellington City Council will consider next week whether to outlaw begging by either banning the act itself or fining those who open up their wallets.

      They are two of the ideas mentioned in a $50,000 report on the state of begging in Wellington, which proposes dozens of solutions to the growing problem.

      oh ffs. Use the $50,000 to pay homeless people to sort their own problems out. You people obviously have no fucking clue on what to do.

      • The Chairman 4.1.1

        “That’d be one law I’d be pretty happy to break.”

        And with the increasing amount of cameras coupled with facial recognition it will become an easy law to police.

        • weka

          Brilliant opportunity for some civil disobedience. I’m sure the judges will love people being brought up on charges for refusing to pay fines for donating $1 to a homeless person.

          Besides, there will be many ways around this. Ask the beggar to do something (sing a song, give me directions) and it becomes payment for services or a gift of gratitude. Would love to see them outlaw that. Really really stupid, and like I said, they should hand over the funding to the people who are affected because the office-bound consultants who came up with this crap have no clues.

        • Mike S

          Very much doubt it would be an easy law to police. Who’s gonna police it for a start? If anyone other than a police officer asks for your name and details so they can fine you are you going to give them this info? i certainly wouldn’t. I can’t imagine the police walking around giving people fines for giving people money.

          Effective facial recognition for the purposes of administering such fines is a long way off yet.

          Then of course, a person could say they were paying the person for a service such as carrying their bag or giving them some directions, etc, etc, etc.

          Not a hope in hell that this would be an effective bylaw

          • The Chairman

            “Who’s gonna police it for a start?”

            Councils or a private contractor.

            It would go something like this. Cameras coupled with facial recognition will identify you and record the crime. An algorithm will then send you a fine in the mail.

            Like most fines you would have the right to take it to court if you wished.

            Some cases may be harder to prosecute, but chucking money into a hat would be rather straight forward.

            SkyCity casino uses facial recognition technology to pluck banned gamblers out of a crowd.

            • AB

              The Chairman is keen to criminalise charity.
              Interesting – normally conservatives LOVE charity because with enough spin and bullshit it can be made to seem like a viable alternative to government-funded social welfare systems.
              It’s not viable of course, but if people can be persuaded and social services can be run down, it might just mean a tax-cut for them. Yippee!

              Actually I think it is really healthy to see beggars. Their presence or absence is simply a reflection of the sort of society we all choose to create. If they are tidied away their is nothing to prick our consciences.

              • The Chairman

                I’m not keen to criminalise charity. I was merely highlighting what is being considered and how such a proposal could be policed.

      • greywarshark 4.1.2

        The homeless people need sustenance and a safe place to sleep while they sort themselves out so fund some food vans selling pies hot soup and hot buttered and vegemite rolls and an apple and to stay the night in, simple concrete pink painted rooms, (pink supposedly being both soothing and positive feeling), lockable, separate shower boxes, roll up mattresses aired every day. Breakfast muesli or muesli bar, drink of water, then cup of tea etc.

        That would take away some of the miserableness, or would until the snarky councillors come along to despise them because they aren’t scenic or trendy.

  5. Bastables 5

    “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”


    Fuck the poor……. What an awful sentiment.

  6. Rosie 6

    So Auckland mayoral candidates are feeling affronted by witnessing dirty poverty in their faces too? It must be National Local Body Hate On The Poor Week.

    Make them live the lives of a homeless person for a week. No money, no safety, no access to health care, families gone awol, a frightening and hostile world all around all the time, body pain, hunger, a public toilet as your bathroom and see if they begin to get the picture after that.

    Nicola Young, btw, has been hating on the poor for some time now. This is the councillor that opposed paying a living wage to council workers because “the low waged can get help from the government”. National Party councillor logic. Use taxes to subsidise worker’s living costs.

    She also has no idea of the intense ongoing work of local NGO’s in recent years in addressing homelessness. Her statement highlights her ignorance on the matter.

  7. Anno1701 7

    This kind of policy is the early signs of our society starting to crack IMO

    nothing is going to be done to improve these peoples live so lets just shuffle them off so we dont have to be reminded how badly neo-lib capatilism has failed, cos we kinda put all our eggs in one basket now and dont want to be confronted by he hard hard evidence it is failing’/failed…

    debtors prisons next ?

  8. maui 8

    Yeah let’s talk about anything except addressing the actual problem. These councillors make me sick.

  9. alwyn 9

    How on earth are you supposed to decide who is allowed to ask for money?
    Will the Police arrest collectors for the Wellington Free Ambulance? Perhaps those asking for money for a Woman’s Refuge can be packed of to the cells and then fined in the Courts?
    Some I wouldn’t mind of course. Personally I would be only too happy if we could get rid of the Sea Shepherd lot who turn up at the Newtown fair. I rather like those collecting for the Mary Potter Hospice though. I’m sure others will have different opinions.
    Who is going to choose though, and how are they going to do it?
    It would get particularly interesting if you made it an offense to give anything to a beggar. Would every single person collecting for the Red Cross have to have a personally issued permit, with photo-id, so that donors could check that it was legal to give them a couple of dollars?

  10. shorts 10

    banning begging and banning windscreen washers

    the two big policy platforms of every single local body political who has nothing to offer

    Now if one of these heartless sods would put forward a motion to ban chuggers I’d strongly support them

  11. James 11

    Working in the city – I agree that there are some “beggars” that obviously need help.

    And more should be made available to help them. Begging is not the solution for them, but I can understand how they get there.

    As a general rule – and I see them every lunchtime, these people are quiet, sit there and never cause any issues.

    However on the other hand – there are a log of economic beggars also who are very clearly just doing this for some “easy” money.

    They are rude and aggressive at worse, and taking the piss at best.

    I think something needs to be done about both. Get rid of the people just scamming some extra coin. Stop the anti social behaviour, and make the CBD a better place.

    But even more importantly – we have to do more to help the people in genuine need. They often fall outside “the norm” in the help that they require – be it for drugs, or mental health issues. The best way to stop them begging is to get them in a position where they do not need to.

    • mickysavage 11.1

      Have you thought the the Government’s push to get people off the benefit and being seen to being tough on beneficiaries may be contributing to the problem?

      • The Chairman 11.1.1

        “Have you thought the the Government’s push to get people off the benefit and being seen to being tough on beneficiaries may be contributing to the problem?”


        And is the increase in begging a further sign that benefit payments are insufficient?

        Beneficiaries overwhelm support event in Mangere


        • International Rescue

          “And is the increase in begging a further sign that benefit payments are insufficient?”

          No. When families access their full entitlement and exercise sound judgement the quantum of support available to sufficient.

      • International Rescue 11.1.2

        Unlikely. This is more likely a mental health issue, and goes back to the failed integration policy begun decades ago where we put mentally ill people into the community without adequate support.

    • Colonial Viper 11.2

      there are a log of economic beggars also who are very clearly just doing this for some “easy” money.

      Fuck you’re a laugh.

      We’re all economic beggars.

      It’s just that some have learnt to kiss ass and steal billions from society while wearing a suit and tie, and somehow consider themselves better than others.

      • crashcart 11.2.1

        The “Economic Beggars” term reminds me of the “Economic Refugees” distinction a lot of people make. It is stupid because it ignores the fact that what these people refer to as economic beggars are still in need and still have valid reasons for what they are doing. But because they aren’t mentally ill or sleeping under a bridge they obviously shouldn’t be there.

        When it comes down to it if I became unemployed and didn’t have the money to feed my family because the benefit is too low I would do every thing I could to make sure food was on the table. That would include ditching false self esteem and asking for the help of strangers. Far better my humiliation than my children’s hunger.

        • Gangnam Style

          “Far better my humiliation than my children’s hunger.” – +1000

      • Puckish Rogue 11.2.2

        You’re an economic beggar?

        • maui

          You haven’t heard about the large numbers who go to a tower most days, find their spot at 9am, then the cap goes out. Cap retrieved at 5pm, it’s time to go home. Hopefully they get enough to live on.

    • Richard Christie 11.3

      Ah, the deserving vs undeserving poor.

      The favourite meme of RWNJs

      • AB 11.3.1

        I’ve seen some ‘economic beggars’ – some of them looked like ‘nutrition beggars’, and I sure a couple were ‘alcohol beggars’. There were “sad, mad and lonely” beggars whom I lump together as “psychological beggars”. Also some who looked like “accommodation beggars”.
        God it was confusing and way too hard to do anything about. Best if we tidy them away, maybe a field out near the airport or something like Mumbai? Or a shallow grave?

  12. saveNZ 12

    How about redirecting some ‘trust’ monies into homelessness and mental health.

    Not giving Sky City more pokies.

    Maybe making global companies pay corporate tax locally?

    Putting royalties on bottled water being harvested and flogged off.

    Getting rid of ‘social bonds’ that look to make corporations and individuals more profits by profiting off the poor further.

    BTW – CYFS have now apparently been banned from looking after children. ‘Private’ including a UK based company providers are going to be doing this work now in NZ.

    • joe90 12.1

      Private’ including a UK based company providers are going to be doing this work now in NZ

      Outside of statuary social work NGO’s have been providing child welfare services for quite some time.

      • saveNZ 12.1.1

        Personally find it all shocking. This government hates children for a start. There is absolute penny pinching for anything to do with kids especially young ones. For a start once you give birth to a baby you are shuttled out with new born within a few hours if possible from hospital, forget about an obstetrician unless you are private, (if you are poor, pray you don’t need a doctor), plunket is a charity not a government run organisation, there is zero help until 20 ‘free’ childcare hours at 3 years old (which you have to top up often). Feel even more sorry for the CYPS kids who are just fodder for a grotesque system that does not put their needs first and have appalling outcomes.

        I saw the other day that there are more migrants coming into NZ than NZ babies being born (including migrant babies). So therefore I guess goodbye native Kiwi babies and good luck to the new babies having to somehow look after the massive social engineering of NZ so we will have a massive old age population from adding so many middle aged and old people into the mix so someone can pay someone less than the living wage.

        (Retirement homes are being built as we speak in dodgy council sell off land deals to foreign buyers).

        The homeless are fucked but so are we with these insane brainiac decisions.

        Even hopefully John Key will get his comeuppance as Max gets struck down by affluenza and the billions of Panama tax papers still being examined starts popping out the truth – how do people get so rich while doing everything to rip off and blame someone who gets below a living wage each week?

  13. Dialaey 13

    how about stinging some of those offshore, shell companies with a special beggar tax to pay for initiatives to help them

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    The best a Council can do is address poverty and its causes.

    The cause of poverty is capitalism and we can be pretty sure that neither the council nor the government will be doing anything about that.

  15. greywarshark 15

    Young says that Celia Ward Brown has been in Council for 17 years and done nothing!

    Young’s father, Bill, was a National Party Cabinet minister.
    “Most of local government is not about left or right. It’s about getting stuff done,” she said.
    (About Councillor Eagle who is Maori and Labour and who she likes for Deputy if she gets in.)
    “We’re both committed to Wellington and are looking for what’s good for all Wellingtonians.
    “There is often a bit of a trade-off there, but it’s about fairness and being aspirational for the city.
    “For me, economic growth is hugely important because it feeds the things Paul feels particularly strongly about, all the social justice stuff.”

    She ran for mayor in 2013, the year she first ran for council.

  16. UncookedSelachimorpha 16

    A big increase in funding for mental health and addiction services (including that rarest of things – residential care) is what is needed. The people who want to ban begging are a disgrace. Don’t want to fund services, and also don’t want to see the results of the lack of funding. We are a wealthy country that can easily afford to do much better.

    The whole mantra of pushing the mentally ill and vulnerable into the streets (“community care”) was motivated by cost-cutting (cuts have to be made somewhere, if the rich are to pay no tax).

    As someone with close links to people with drug addiction and mental health issues – I can vouch that the available free resources are very thin on the ground. Safe, supervised housing, with a program to address trauma, addiction and mental health, is necessary for some people, and gives better results than any ban on begging.

  17. Ad 17

    On Queen Street you have both beggars every 10 meters, and overseas charities also begging.

    Ironic, sure, but they’re making us embarrased and uncomfortable for a reason: conscience.

    For irrational reasons I tend to donate to those who are doing something for it.

    I was in Prague 10 years ago just after Christmas, and the entrances to Stephens dom bridge was totally crowded. I just hope we don’t get to a state of DickensIan petty crime illustrated in Oliver.

    It would not be too big a step for Tolley’s big social welfare reforms announced today to include embracing beggars. Surely.

  18. One Anonymous Bloke 18

    What should Councils do about begging? Inflict harsh penalties upon those who vilify beggars. Fund research to establish the economic causes of homelessness and poverty, then prosecute the right wing trash who inflict them upon society.

  19. Macro 19

    Now that Bill E will have around $350 mill from the “deal” with KiwiBank sell off to ACC and the Super fund to play with – I guess he plans to use this to alleviate poverty and the need to beg.
    Oh no! I forgot the rich pricks are getting a tax cut.

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