Christchurch considers aggressive begging bylaw

aggressive begging

Aggressive begging is on the rise in Christchurch. The Council is considering the pros and cons of a bylaw to tackle the problem.

It is out of control in some areas, some people say.

“I’ve been here 27 years and the last two years have been shocking – we’ve got homelessness, we’ve got people harassing people for money, it’s just unbelievable,” a suburban gift shop owner says.

These beggars can be “pretty scary for elderly people and they go up to people in their cars and everything, it’s just not on.”

Beggars even come into her shop and approach customers. Stronger enforcement is long overdue.

“There’s no authority, that’s the trouble. These people are not answerable to the likes of us when we tell them to move on.”

Begging a human right?

Christchurch City Council considered anti-begging bylaws some years ago but gave up plans in 2015. It would be too hard to enforce, it decided.

However, the rise in aggressive begging has seen the Council again considering the options.

The Council notes that in 2017 three beggars in Napier were charged with breaching the bylaw on begging.

Pleading not guilty, they said the Council breached the Bill of Rights Act. Police dropped the charges.

The Council will also be noting how effective Auckland and Wellington city council bylaws will be in prohibiting anti-social behaviour associated with aggressive begging.

Christchurch Central ward councillor Jake McLellan is leading the research into begging.

He says he understands police want a bylaw to make it easier to deal with aggressive begging.

Council staff will consider if one is needed and present their findings to Council, McLellan says.

He says the bylaw isn’t about punishing people who safely solicit support from members of the public.

“What we’re concerned about is people being threatened and intimidated, being stood over at ATMs.

“That’s the type of behaviour that really borders on the legal limits of what you are and aren’t allowed to do.

“So we’re happy to look at tools that give the police additional powers to look into that” he says.

“I’ll support a bylaw if the evidence backs it up. I want to be really clear about that.”

McLellan says he’s “almost certain” more resourcing for the City Mission and similar agencies is needed.

Aggressive begging isn’t everyone’s way

People begging say they need help.

Christchurch’s City Missioner says genuinely homeless people aren’t usually aggressive.

The Mission has two outreach workers who go onto the streets each morning to support homeless people.

Any bylaw about aggressive begging must not stop the Mission from helping those people who are genuinely sleeping rough, she says.

Housing First Otautahi says a bylaw won’t work.

It says punitive measures won’t address the deeper issues.

“The Council seems to think ‘we want to get these people off the streets, they’re a nuisance …” Housing First says.

“What do they call aggressive? Are the the aggressive people really unwell? Who’s going to make that decision?”


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