Yesterday I had a meeting with two council officers to discuss the proposal I gave to the council on how to manage the huge increase in the number of people begging on the streets. At the end of the meeting I was given 5 minutes to speak at a big meeting they are having on the subject in a few months. Below is a copy of the proposal I presented.
A few Points around this conversation
1. City Housing is the most stability I have ever had in my life. Without this I do not know how I would have survived the past decade, although the big blocks are challenging places to live in. Wellington is the only city with social housing on this scale. For many of us, our life expectations are dependent on how such an advanced social asset is managed in the future.
2. Within my own social group are also a few beggers and I have been straight with all of them, about this option I am presenting to the city. I propose that you issue a pan-handlers licence and actually enforce the time limit rather than volume level with regards to moving on beggers and Buskers.
3. In the 1991 black budget, the base benefit level was cut by about 27%. It has hardly ever had any adjustments for inflation since. The benefit system alone is not enough to survive on in 2016, yet alone even basics like transport or access to the internet. The need for some people to beg is very real. There are many local beggers who are only there until they get $20 or so to help them get by for a day or two. They are finding it hard. I am not calling for an outright ban on beggers.
4. There are a few bad eggs that spoil it for all. Busker or Begger, they seek out the best locations for making money, and then they hog that spot all day, every day. Many of these people are very polite if they want someone or to authority but are very nasty when they want to toss you off the best spot. For the sake of those people I believe that enforcing a time limit of there about 2 hours, would be the most fair option for all those who need to survive, and stop thugs from taking over all the best places.
5. There are many differences between beggers and buskers. With practice a begger will become only a con artist. All they do is put a huge guilt trip into the atmosphere. Wellington has a fantastic talent of local musicians who do most of the regular busking. With practice considerable investment into equipment even quite awful buskers starting out, learn with live practice, how to refine their skills with such direct incentive. What is the first thing a tourist is expecting to see, on the streets of a cool little capital?
6. There was no boom in busking last summer, as per the Dom Post. Some crafty beggers are getting a buskers licence to look good with the City Hosts. In my humble opinion, if someone applies for a buskers licence they should have a guitar or something with them at the time and prove it.
7. Only locals with a panhandlers licence [traditional term] should be allowed to beg at all. On Saturday Morning Lambton Quay is wall to wall with beggers that have been tossed out of Auckland, Christchurch and elsewhere. I was relieved to learn that WCC will be doing something about the begger infestation soon. Wellington has traditionally been a liberal city, but very tough on building codes because of regular 5.7 earthquakes.
8. A panhandlers licence should have the following conditions;
[a] After about 2 hours, it is time to move on. [Most Important for fairness]
[b] Do not set up too close to any busker, or begger
[c] Do not sit down and beg right next to any money machine at all.
[d] Stop targeting old people, like they are easy prey.
[e] Just quietly sit there, do not ask everyone going past for money
[f] Prove they live in the Wellington region. We don’t want tourist begging.