Hawke's Bay is facing a housing crisis with moteliers saying dozens of people squeezed out of emergency motel accommodation due to pre-bookings for harvest workers, Art Deco Weekend and the national kappa haka championships.
Ikaroa-Rawhiti MP Meka Whaitiri said the situation was tragic because taxpayers were footing large bills for substandard accommodation.
"I visited a motel in Hastings [on Friday] where several whanau have been housed under the Ministry of Social Development's emergency accommodation scheme," she said.
"What I saw was shocking and distressing. I don't use the term lightly, but the conditions these whanau are living in are simply horrible.
"I met Pipiana, an expectant mother with one child, who has been at the motel for nearly two months. She's been paying $770 per week and must leave by 22 February.
"I met Amiria, who has three children and has been paying an unbelievable $1600 per week for her single-bedroom unit. Amiria must leave by 14 February.
"I also met Tanya, who has four kids and has been paying $1400 per week for her single-bedroom unit. Tanya has been asked to leave the motel next week.
"This is an awful situation on several levels. No child should be living in a hovel, but these whanau now face an uncertain future as they must all leave the motel soon.
"My office is working with MSD to find urgent solutions."
She said the situation was a "shameful legacy" of government changes to social-housing agency Housing NZ.
"The emergency housing system is failing and it's just unacceptable," she said.
Ministry of Social Development (MSD) Social Housing Associate Deputy Chief Executive Kay Read said MSD was working with people needing accommodation and accommodation providers to explore all possible options in the Hawke's Bay and wider East Coast region.
MSD and Housing NZ were working to identify vacant properties "that could be brought back online quickly".
"MSD is also joined up with community agencies and accommodation providers to temporarily house the people who most need our help," she said.
"While motels are not our preferred option, our priority is on ensuring that people have a warm, dry and safe place to stay."
She urged anyone who needed help with housing to talk to MSD, so all possible alternatives were considered before moving to a motel was necessary.
"This may mean helping them to stay in their current accommodation by paying rent arrears, providing bond and rent in advance to help them into a new rental or referring them to a contracted emergency housing provider.
"Where there are no contracted emergency housing places available we can help to identify appropriate short-term accommodation and meet the costs of this through a Special Needs Grant (SNG) that does not need to be paid back."
Hawke's Bay Today spoke with several moteliers and all declined to be named.
They all said MSD would only book week by week, because the accommodation was supposed to be temporary, giving them no option but to accept forward bookings or potentially lose revenue.
One said he received on average three calls a day from people seeking emergency housing funded by the Government.
Another said the cost quoted by Meka Whaitiri was "the going rate this time of year".
MSD said the number of Hawke's Bay people housed in emergency motel accommodation would be released this week.