Begging ban back on city's agenda

An anti-begging bylaw in Palmerston North could be back on the table following an increase in aggressive behaviour from street vagrants in the central city.

Increasingly brazen behaviour has been reported in the city in recent weeks, including reports of beggars opening car doors to ask people for money as they park their vehicles on Broadway Ave.

Mayor Jono Naylor said the spike in complaints could trigger a rethink about the need for a bylaw.

Begging is not illegal, and Palmerston North does not have a bylaw banning it.

Talk of a bylaw arose around the time of the Rugby World Cup in 2011 in order to clean up the streets, but a social agency approach was considered a more effective way of dealing with the problem.

"The collective wisdom of multiple agencies was that a bylaw was not necessarily going to address the issue," Mr Naylor said.

It could be time to reconsider that, he said.

But Mr Naylor said the current problems were more about intimidation than simple begging, and that behaviour could be dealt with as a criminal matter.

Palmerston North City Council communications adviser Daniel O'Regan said the council was "very aware" of the issue. A "beggar committee" made up of members of the Palmerston North Safety Advisory Board, which includes the city council, community organisations and government organisations like police, will meet next Friday to discuss the issue.

Last December, the Safety Advisory Board launched the Give Wisely campaign in an effort to discourage people from giving money to beggars.

Posters with the Give Wisely message were handed out to shops in Broadway Ave, around The Square and outside The Plaza, asking people to give to charities rather than beggars.

Mr O'Regan said the committee was always going to meet before summer to discuss the beggar campaign again, but a mild winter appeared to have brought forward issues with beggars.

When the campaign was launched, the number of beggars on the streets dropped off and people were talking about it, he said.

The committee would be looking at whether the Give Wisely campaign could be expanded, and if anything else needed to run alongside it. Editorial, P9

Manawatu Standard