An attempt to stop vagrants causing trouble in Mt Albert town centre is causing a stir.
Over the last year the council has removed three public benches on New North Rd from the area around the Mt Albert shops.
The removals were at the request of business owners who are concerned about vagrants.
Last year community leaders started a campaign to rid the area of transients they say had started congregating there after being driven out of the central city.
They say they were drinking, begging, busking, hustling locals, cleaning windscreens at intersections and sniffing glue in public.
Albert-Eden Local Board spokeswoman Pauline Anderson said the vagrants were "quite intimidating".
Council public affairs and media manager Glyn Walters says the seats that were taken out were in areas where the footpath is quite narrow and "anti-social" behaviour was affecting shops and pedestrians.
He says the council is considering replacing them with narrower seats.
But Mt Albert resident Richie Afford is calling for them to be put back.
The almost 90-year-old is an advocate for public seating and has donated benches for the top of Mt Albert, St Jude's Church and installed a chair in the stone wall outside his house so people can have a quick rest on their way along Mt Albert Rd.
"Generally speaking people need somewhere to be able to sit down," he says.
"If we're going to encourage people to walk and use public transport then there needs to be somewhere to sit.
"The council shouldn't be removing our amenity. It's tackling the problem from the wrong angle.
"If there are vagrants around it's up to the police to come and move them on if they are causing such a nuisance," he says.
Mt Albert Senior Community Constable Darren Calkin says police patrols in the area have been stepped up since the problem came to their attention and taking away the seats has had some effect.
One shop owner who did not want to be named says things have improved since the three town centre seats went but the troublemakers haven't all been deterred.
"They just hang around bus stops and shop doors now, or they just sit on the floor and put out a hat," he says.
"It's not very nice having drug addicts smoking and sniffing whatever they have."
At the same time the seats have disappeared from two bus stops near the shops on Mt Albert Rd.
Who removed them and why they have been taken is a mystery.
Auckland Transport is looking into it.
But it is believed they may have been taken out at the request of nearby residents who say unsavoury people were gathering there at night.
Mr Afford says this is disadvantaging elderly people.
"Old people are losing our licences and we're encouraged to take public transport. It's vital that when they're waiting for the bus there is somewhere to sit."
- © Fairfax NZ News