Mayor to tackle vagrants

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker expects to announce within a week a series of "practical" solutions to deal with the vagrancy problem in the city's premier hospitality precinct.

However, she is keeping mum about the details of the measures as further work is required.

Ms Hardaker said she had come up with some "very good ideas" and had been working with the Hamilton Central Business Association and council staff on the issue.

Business owners around the Riff Raff public park at the south end of Victoria St spoke about the problem in yesterday's Waikato Times.

They said a group of up to 20 people who regularly engaged in anti-social behaviour was driving business away from the area and people felt threatened.

Gripes included begging for money, eating scraps off used plates, drinking, public defecation, and verbal abuse.

Ms Hardaker said the problem had spiked lately, with more people choosing to sleep rough due to the warm weather.

Government agencies needed to get involved, she said, because policy changes over the past decade had left vulnerable members of society exposed.

Redevelopment of low-cost housing in Hillcrest had also cut the number of cheaper housing options in the city, she said.

Ms Hardaker dismissed the idea of introducing an anti-loitering bylaw.

"It's a last-resort option and certainly not one that council has discussed," she said.

"One of the issues with that option is enforcement. There's a lot to go through before you even consider that."

It was not "a simple solution", she said.

Homelessness had been on her agenda, and that of the council, for some time.

Last year they received a report on the issue and an inter-agency group was formed to deal with it.

An action plan was in place, but Ms Hardaker said it could be more focused.

"There's an opportunity through the inter-agency group, for social services that are responsible for the wellbeing of our community across New Zealand, and particularly those who deliver health services, to direct some focus on this issue for our city."

Waikato Times