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Mayoral candidate, and current Councillor, Nicola Young has incited controversy by suggesting she would introduce a bylaw to ban begging from Wellington’s CBD if elected mayor.
The comments emerged in response to a recent report commissioned by the Wellington City Council (WCC) exploring the issue of begging, its causation, and potential solutions to alleviate the problem.
In a post on her Facebook page on April 4, Young suggested “begging has become rife” and that, “it’s a terrible look for a city marketing itself as the events capital of the country.” Her solution was to “introduce a bylaw banning begging in the CBD and near cash machines.”
Young has been heavily criticised for her suggestion, with critics saying this implies begging is a lifestyle choice, and it denies the real existence of poverty.
Mayoral candidate, and Deputy Mayor, Justin Lester responded to Young’s suggestion and stressed he opposes the proposal.
“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.”
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown, said a ban would not address the roots causes of begging, such as people leaving prison or mental health services with inadequate continued support.
The WCC report, “Begging in Wellington: An exploration into our community’s issue”, stresses that begging is “a symptom,” which stems from a diverse range of causes, including poverty and mental health. It said begging is not a lucrative form of income, “most said they get about $60.00–$80.00 per week.”
The report stressed that a ban “does not stop begging from occurring elsewhere, and indeed may channel the need for disposable income into petty crime or other harmful activity.”
A 2014 national quality of life survey, which provided comparative data across six New Zealand cities, showed concerns about begging by the people of Wellington were significantly higher than the national average, with 75% of those surveyed saying it was either “a bit of a problem” (53%) or “a big problem” (22%).
On, RNZ’s Morning Report (April 7), Young stuck steadfast to her anti-begging line despite the evidence of the council report, “I want to move the beggars away from the very lucrative areas so it’s harder for them to earn money.”
Colder than a Wellington winter.