Sonya is a social issues reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Emergency housing crisis: Camping ground solution debated

Photo/file
Photo/file

A mooted solution to the emergency housing crisis of opening up camping grounds will need to ensure "slums" are not created, Tauranga's mayor says.

Tauranga-based New Zealand First MP Clayton Mitchell met with Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby and a number of city councillors this week to discuss the issue of homelessness in Tauranga.

Mr Mitchell raised his ideas of ways to alleviate the housing crisis, which included opening new camping grounds and holiday parks to be used as short-term emergency accommodation.

"The new facilities would also help our bolstering tourist numbers over the summer period.

"I will be having further discussions with local growers and seasonal orchardists who may have available, out-of-season accommodation, which would require council to resolve public transportation options into the city."

Mr Crosby said he agreed homelessness was becoming a key priority in Tauranga and its surrounding areas, but he did not think new camping grounds were a good solution.

"The issue around camping grounds needs to be carefully thought through. That could be a recipe for disaster, that's for sure.

"We would have to look at tenure, who owns the land, facilities, etc. That needs a lot more thought and care to make sure we wouldn't be exacerbating the problem and creating slums," he said.

Mr Crosby said the council had provided a men's shelter and were now looking at the research for an accommodation facility for women.

"It definitely needs a central government, local government and other agencies' collective approach to address it."

Mr Crosby said the problem could not be rectified simply by building more houses - the approach needed to look at overall well-being.

"A lot of it boils down to economy, skills, training and education. It's not as simple as it might appear."

Tauranga City Council community development manager Meagan Holmes said homelessness was something that required a multi-agency approach to understand and address, and the council's current focus was to work with other organisations to see how they could best address homelessness and emergency housing needs.

The council had held workshops with organisations and agencies either working in, or interested in, housing and homelessness and the various associated issues.

From these workshops, a steering group would be established to combine efforts and work together.

On Saturday, the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend reported that "hidden homeless" were becoming more prevalent in Tauranga as the housing shortage drove people to live in garages, caravans and cars.

Philip King, general manager of community services at Tauranga City Council, said the numbers of hidden homeless in Tauranga were growing due to issues including lack of money, the high cost of rental accommodation and social issues preventing them from being able to access rental accommodation.

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