Submission to the Proposed changes to the Public Nuisance and Safety Bylaw 2013
Submission to the Proposed changes to the Public Nuisance and Safety Bylaw 2013
Heart of the City is the business association for the city centre, which includes more than 4000 commercially rated properties and 12,000+ businesses. We are committed to the growth and success of the city centre as an accessible, safe and welcoming urban community.
The city centre is the centre of the region’s economy. It is growing at pace, with more than 120,000 workers, 57,000 residents and 60,000 students in the city centre, as well as buoyant national and international visitor numbers.
A safe and welcoming city centre:
For the city centre to be successful – for all – it must be a safe and welcoming environment. Our research tells us that people are concerned about antisocial behaviour that occurs here, which contributes to feelings of unease and negative perceptions of safety in the city centre.
As one of our businesses said, “it is important for us to paint the correct picture of our city. Antisocial and disruptive behaviour should not be the lasting impression we give visitors of our city”.
Businesses tell us that issues such as harassment (both in-store and in public spaces), the effects of synthetics consumption, footpath obstruction and intimidating behaviour - sometimes associated with begging - impacts their economic success and the wellbeing of their staff, tenants and customers. This is of major concern to us.
We acknowledge that there is not a one size fits all solution to all of the issues that contribute to negative perceptions and real experiences of safety. We support a holistic and collaborative approach in addressing many of these issues that businesses report to us frequently.
An Auckland Council Public Nuisance and Safety Bylaw will not automatically address some of the challenges that our city centre currently experiences. However, we believe that the bylaw plays a critical role in setting the expectations of behaviour and understanding amongst Aucklanders, and therefore it is important to get the right inclusions and definitions incorporated.
In order for the bylaw to be effective, it is imperative that council ensures there is adequate resource invested to enable active management and enforcement of the bylaw. Critical to this is the ongoing investment that Auckland Council makes to the CityWatch programme, which Heart of the City co-funds.
Submission to the proposed Public Nuisance Bylaw amendments:
Our commentary on the Public Nuisance Bylaw focuses on several key areas – including the proposed change to clause 6(1) – the general definition about “bad behaviour” along with specific clauses 6(1)(f) related to begging and clause 6(1)(e) related to mind altering substances.
1. Proposal to amend clause 6(1) of the bylaw, renaming it to ‘Bad behaviours prohibited in public places’.
This includes an amendment of 6(1) to read “A person must not use a public place to wilfully obstruct, disturb, interfere with, alarm, distress, intimidate or harm any other person in their use or enjoyment of that public place”.
We support the proposed amendments as we believe that these changes will clarify the expected behaviour and restrictions on people using places and that it should, by definition, indicate that any ‘bad behaviour’ irrespective of what activity it may be associated with, including begging, is unacceptable in our public places.
Further, we note that the proposed new definition no longer contains the word ‘nuisance’ despite this being a specific power in section 145(a) of the Local Government Act 2002. Including ‘nuisance’ in clause 6(1) of the Proposed Bylaw is important.
As such, we recommend that in addition to the proposed changes, clause 6(1) is amended to state that:
“A person must not use a public place to wilfully obstruct, disturb, interfere with, alarm, distress, intimidate, harm or cause a nuisance to any other person in their use or enjoyment of that public place.”
Underpinning the effectiveness of the bylaw is the ability to manage bad behaviour, and for Council to undertake enforcement when it is necessary to address such behaviour. We have to ensure that there is ongoing funding committed to the CityWatch programme. We have a constructive working relationship with Auckland Council through our co-funding of this programme but we believe Council needs to give consideration as to what level of investment is required to appropriately cater for the unprecedented growth and investment that is being made in the city centre. It is critical that there is on the ground security presence in our streets to offer a level of comfort to the city centre community, for effective prevention in partnership with NZ Police, as well as to allow for critical reporting and enforcement where appropriate.
Note: Heart of the City has recently doubled its contribution to CityWatch as we are concerned that we need to address bad behaviour before it becomes the norm.
2. Proposal to Remove Clause 6(1)(f) around the prohibition of “Begging activity that intimidates and causes a nuisance”.
Begging is an unfortunate part of the current city centre landscape. We acknowledge the complex issues that contribute to people needing to beg and we recognise that there needs to be a holistic and collaborative approach to addressing this concerning issue.
Heart of the City has consistently supported the idea of providing alternative solutions to addressing begging. Just recently we have piloted the Street Guardian programme, where over a six-week period in October and November this year, in partnership with the Auckland City Mission, community organisations and city centre businesses, we provided a one a day a week activity programme for more than 35 members of our city centre street community. We believe opportunities like this can provide a positive alternative to begging that has multiple benefits and we are currently determining next steps with the programme.
However, until sustainable solutions are in place, the daily presence of people begging on the streets and the associated behaviour that sometimes comes with it causes significant concern and impact for city centre businesses. While people genuinely care about the wellbeing of vulnerable people, 93% of respondents to a survey on this issue want it to be addressed, with Auckland Council one of the key organisations cited as responsible for solutions.
We do not wish to criminalise vulnerable people and we are pragmatic about the inability of a bylaw to simply “end it by banning it” as other city councils have recently agreed to implement. And, as co-funders of the City Watch programme we understand the role of managing bad behaviour no matter who causes it, with a graduated approach to enforcement.
Notwithstanding this, we are concerned about the impact that the proposed removal of specific reference to ‘intimidating and nuisance begging’ in the bylaw could have on the experience of the city centre. We appreciate it should make no material impact on the way in which intimidating and nuisance begging is addressed. However, given the prevalence of intimidating and nuisance begging that occurs in the city centre, we are concerned that removing the direct reference to this activity will have unintended consequences – that it could be perceived as a weakening of the concern about the impact of this issue and diminish the focus on managing it. Given this we recommend that Council retains the specific clause (6)(1)(f).
…“I am concerned that if we remove the law that prohibits intimidating begging and instead rely upon a more general prohibition around intimidating or nuisance behaviour [sic] in public places that those enforcing and monitoring the prohibition against intimidating begging will no longer have a clear mandate to take action.” - City centre business
Furthermore, we ask Council to explore suitable alternatives to begging, as well as ensuring there is adequate outreach to support people who spend time on city centre streets. Ensuring there are alternatives and adequate wrap around services will be the way we will ensure there are lasting impacts on addressing begging in our city.
3. Remove the clause 6(1)e “Offence to consume, inject, inhale, distribute, sell any mind altering substance in public”.
Council has proposed to remove this clause as it is viewed that a bylaw is not the most appropriate way to address the issues given Police powers exist under the Psychoactive Substances Act 2013 and Summary Offences Act 1981.
Heart of the City accepts that a bylaw is not the most appropriate mechanism to address mind-altering substance use in public place. However, we are deeply worried about the ongoing use and impact that mind-altering substances – including synthetics (and other mind-altering substances either now or in the future) - have on both users and the wider city centre community. It causes significant stress and worry for business owners and others in the city centre community, it is a significant health issue for users, and its use and effects directly impact the positive experience in the city centre as well as wider Auckland.
As one business put it, “These substances are lethal. It is a huge problem in the central city and needs to be addressed wherever possible, including in this bylaw”.
Synthetics particularly are of utmost concern. Whilst we understand that a bylaw may not be an effective tool in managing this issue, there has to be more done to address it. We must see continued and greater investment towards a developing a holistic approach to addressing this issue and Auckland Council must take a lead role in lobbying central government for solutions.
Council has advised that CityWatch will continue to take an active role in monitoring and reporting to the police suspicious behaviour in relation to mind altering substances including the distribution and selling of these substances. It is critical that despite these bylaw changes they continue to perform this role.
Viv Beck, Chief Executive
Heart of the City