Council commission chair Anne Tolley is sympathising with Tauranga residents over the impact of anti-social behaviour related to homelessness and alcohol abuse on 12th Ave.
Her reaction comes as two petitions for liquor bans to be installed in the area were discussed in a council meeting this week.
However, any potential ban would require an earlier review of the Alcohol Control Bylaw 2018, which is not currently scheduled for review until 2027/28.
Both residents and business owners along 12th Ave submitted petitions for liquor bans to be initiated in the area.
One resident, Maggie Stewart, was present at the council meeting where she made her case clear to the Tauranga City Council commissioners.
“We have had a lot of problems over the past year or so, with homeless people gathering along the end of the road,” she says.
“Getting very drunk, rowdy, and noisy.
“We have got a lot of old people in the street that feel threatened and intimidated.”
Maggie claims that one woman was nearly run over whilst crossing the road to avoid the converging group, another is considering selling her property and moving elsewhere, whilst there have been cases of those involved entering properties.
“It must be very frightening,” says Tolley, reacting to the resident’s testimony.
Paul Billinghurst, sales manager and part owner at Professionals NRG Realty on the corner of Cameron Road and 12th Ave, also spoke at the council meeting.
He says this has been an issue for the majority of his four years based at the location, but the issues have accelerated over the past six to 12 months.
He details how the company billboard has been regularly urinated on whilst their drain has also been defecated in.
On Monday morning, prior to the council meeting, Paul had to clear vomit from the front of the property and the issue is now having a direct impact on business.
“From a business point of view, it has gotten to a point where my team does not want to bring clients in.”
Paul says he has universal support from business owners in the area regarding the petition.
“It is not a good look for us businesses and our staff do not feel safe,” he explains.
“Look, they are harmless and I have never had any incidents but it’s intimidating, especially for females and school kids walking past when there are a bunch of drunk males outside.”
Maggie and Paul both praised the work of police when called out. However, without a liquor ban in place, they appreciate their hands are somewhat tied.
Western Bay of Plenty area commander Inspector Clifford Paxton admits alcohol has an impact on communities in the region.
He highlights how homelessness is a “complex issue” and warns more than just a liquor ban is needed to address these issues.
“Alcohol causes significant harm in our communities and its consumption can lead to anti-social behaviour, crime and disorder,” says Clifford.
“Safety of the community is police’s primary concern.
“We cannot address alcohol-related offending or anti-social behaviour alone, we ask everyone to take responsibility for themselves and their friends when it comes to alcohol.”
Police may search and seize, without warrant, any container a person is carrying in an alcohol-free area as well as any vehicle that is in, or entering, an alcohol-free area.
Police may also arrest any person found to be committing an offence, including refusing to comply by leaving the alcohol-free area or surrendering any alcohol in their possession.
Instant fines can also be handed out by police in these areas.
Council will now prepare a report for Commissioners, with a timescale of late June to early July earmarked as the likely time of submission.
However, a liquor ban would require community consultation and an earlier than anticipated amendment to the current Alcohol Bylaw.
“Council staff will prepare a report for the Commissioners, setting out the options available to respond to the issues raised in the petition from 12th Avenue residents and business owners,” says Barbara Dempsey, general manager: regulatory and compliance.
“If an introduction of a permanent liquor ban, for example, was agreed to, it would require an early review of the Alcohol Bylaw, the next review is currently scheduled for 2027/28.
“Any proposed bylaw change would require a formal community consultation process.”
Paul is hopeful that a liquor ban in the area would give police more powers when it comes to dealing with the anti-social behaviour regularly occurring on 12th Avenue.
“We are trying to do the right thing by going through the council and getting this liquor ban,” he says.
“I 100 per cent believe that once that happens they will move on very quickly because we can then call the cops and they can start arresting or giving warnings.”