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Welfare groups slam Auckland begging ban

Wednesday 3 Jul 2013 6:17 p.m.

An Auckland Council draft bylaw that initially called for a ban on nuisance behaviour is now calling for a ban on all forms of begging.

But those opposed to the bylaw say begging is just a symptom of lack of welfare and banning it won't solve the problem.

One man 3 News spoke to says he makes up to $400 a week from begging. He says it's not by choice, but out of necessity.

"The money I get from the Government on the sickness benefit, you just can't live on it," he says.

Auckland councillor Michael Lee says beggars are becoming a nuisance and it's time to do something about it.

"Shopkeepers in particular find it frustrating to have someone camped outside their front door," says Mr Lee.

The council expects to sign off a plan to ban begging from Auckland streets within a month. Auckland Council drafted the bylaw after a group of businesses complained that some beggars were intimidating shoppers.

But welfare groups say begging wouldn't be such an issue if people had better access to help.

"We're seeing an increase of what we call gate-keeping," says Sarah Thompson of the Auckland Action Against Poverty. "So this is when you go to Work and Income for assistance and you're told that you're not eligible for something, and as a result people are having to look to alternative sources of income."

"Criminalising people for being poor and jailing people for begging seems like an over-the-top way of dealing with it," says Diane Robertson of Auckland City Mission.

Ms Robertson says Auckland should adopt Wellington's approach of encouraging people to donate to the charities involved in supporting the homeless rather than beggars themselves.

3 News

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