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Council calls for govt action on begging

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 13/04/2016

Wellington City Council has voted against a ban on begging in the central city, but has called on the government to step in on the problem.

An independent report on begging, commissioned by the council, was discussed by a committee on Wednesday.

Among other suggestions, the report raised the idea of banning begging or fining those who gave to beggars.

However the council committee voted 12 - 2 against the ban.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said a ban wouldn't work.

"Begging is not a criminal activity and a ban, if enforced, could push desperate people into criminal activity," she said.

The government must acknowledge it has a key responsibility to deal with the social and economic problems contributing to the "growing scourge" of begging in main cities, the council says.

Councillor Paul Eagle said councils have so far had to bear the brunt of public concern over begging, but don't have resources to address it.

The committee had gained "disturbing insight" into the problem, hearing from police and retailers about beggars being `taxed' by criminals and shoppers being harassed by beggars in the suburb of Newtown.

"We've got a visible problem out there - the council is working to co-ordinate multi-agency responses to begging but the government has a moral obligation to come to the party with a serious, nationally-focused, response," Mr Eagle said.

Ms Wade-Brown will raise the issue of begging at the next meeting of the country's mayors in May.

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