Wellington Scoop

Don’t ban begging, says Justin Lester; I’ll ban begging, says Nicola Young

Begging as an election issue? It seems so, after two mayoral candidates today made strong and opposing statements on whether or not begging should be tolerated in the CBD. Don’t ban begging, said Justin. I’ll ban begging, said Nicola.

News release from Justin Lester and Paul Eagle
Begging is an issue for Wellingtonians – but introducing a bylaw banning begging won’t work, says Deputy Mayor Councillor Justin Lester and Labour’s Mayoral candidate for Wellington.

“A bylaw would treat begging as primarily a criminal rather than a social issue – and there is no evidence from cities with such bans to suggest that this is an effective means of ending or significantly reducing begging.

“In fact, the international evidence indicates banning begging in one area would push it into another and may even push people into criminal activity to replace the begging income lost.

“Intimidating or threatening behaviour by beggars is already illegal under national laws and victims or witnesses are encouraged to contact the Police. Passive begging, such as quietly sitting with a sign, is not illegal.”

Funding was reprioritised in early 2015 by Councillor Paul Eagle, chair of the committee responsible for the city’s social services, and a total re-think into managing begging was commissioned.

A report titled “Begging in Wellington – an exploration into our community’s issue” was authored by internationally renowned ThinkPlace.

Cr Eagle says “We’ve never fully understood the reasons why people beg but we knew begging was growing into a major issue. When we asked Wellingtonians what they thought of begging, they told us the problem was significant – it’s well above the national average.”

The process undertaken by ThinkPlace includes an illustration of the experiences from various stakeholders such as retailers and businesses, council’s street outreach team, those who beg, and people walking through the city’s streets.

“Rather than banning begging, we need to create meaningful, long term change. That means Council taking a clear position on begging and acknowledging it’s a national social issue. We’ll also be adopting a completely new approach that will see us managing the streets better and improving public engagement” says Cr Eagle.

The Council’s Community, Sport and Recreation Committee will discuss the report on Wednesday 13 April.

Opinion from Nicola Young on Facebook
The number of beggars in central Wellington has rocketed in the past six years – something I notice as a Te Aro resident, walking around the CBD. Opportunistic begging has become rife around special events, cruise ship arrivals – and whenever Wellington is at its busiest. It’s a terrible look for a city marketing itself as the events capital of the country, and it’s something I will address as Mayor – after all, there’s nothing compassionate about letting people rot on our streets.

Begging is often driven by addiction (drugs and alcoholism) and crime; sadly mental health issues complicate matters further. People assume beggars are homeless, but that’s rarely the case and our Council staff do wonderful work for those who genuinely need shelter.

The problem is partly due to Wellington’s relative wealth, but the Mayor’s failure to develop realistic solutions has made the situation worse – the idiotic ‘Alternative Giving’ scheme squandered $40,000 of rates to raise $3,500 in eight months.

As Mayor I will introduce a bylaw banning begging in the CBD and near cash machines – the most lucrative spots in our city – as part of a larger strategy involving the Police, WINZ, the DHB and charities. We will guide vulnerable people to a more secure existence: this will require extra resources from the Council – but I’m confident these can be found when we dump some of the profligate municipal expenditure for which Wellington has become famous in recent years.

Nicola Young: “I will introduce a bylaw banning begging”


  1. Sekhmet Bast Ra, 7. April 2016, 12:46

    Nicola Young is right-on, but as there is a problem with beggars in Newtown and Kilbirnie, we really need a bylaw to ban begging across the entire city. I am personally acquainted with some of the guys who go out begging. For the most part, where the money goes is on boxes of beer, cigarettes and cannabis. If you give these guys money you not helping them. All you are doing is helping them maintain drug and alcohol addiction. If you really want to help, do not just flick some coins at the guys out begging. Consider making a donation to Downtown Community Ministry.
    Many of the guys who beg also go to DCM for food parcels, psychiatric services and other support, so a donation to DCM will help break the cycle of begging for money and getting wasted on alcohol and drugs.

  2. Curtis Nixon, 7. April 2016, 13:36

    Typical hard-faced Tory response from N. Young. “There is no society.” Margaret Thatcher.

  3. G R, 7. April 2016, 14:33

    Its just evil to keep politically exploiting the idea of WCC criminalizing begging in the govt’s “austerity” economy.

  4. Michael Gibson, 7. April 2016, 14:59

    The idea of using a reputable organisation like the Downtown Community Ministry as the proper vehicle to help “some of the guys who go out begging” is spot-on. What does Justin Lester think of this?

  5. Kumara Republic, 9. April 2016, 20:18

    All it’s going to do is make it another city’s problem. The only method of banning begging that gets results is cyanide or arsenic. But we’re not 1938 Europe, neither should we be.

  6. Pauline, 11. April 2016, 15:53

    Last Friday in the lunch hour I rode the bus from Courtenay Place to the Railway Station and on the left side of the roads I counted 5 “beggars” all sitting on the ground. As a matter of contrast there were more charity collectors in their yellow jackets shaking their buckets on this route.
    One also has to wonder how will this council deal with the delightful students who strum their guitars, violins etc at the weekends and holidays to raise money.