Families in need of emergency housing are being "dumped" in a holiday camp in one of the poorest towns in New Zealand, according to Kaeo Primary School principal Paul Barker.

The first he knew that a new "transitional housing" centre had begun taking families was when three children turned up at school, followed by two more two days later.

The families, one with nine children, were from Kaikohe and Kawakawa. They were expected to stay at the former Whangaroa Harbour Holiday Park for up three months until more permanent accommodation was found.

Mr Barker said his concern was not with the children - "They're lovely kids, clearly well loved and looked after" - but the fact that their families appeared to have been "dumped" in Kaeo, a town with few resources and with its own housing issues.

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"We have enough problems in our own community in terms of over-crowding and substandard housing. It doesn't make sense to be shipping other people to us," he said.

The families should be housed close to their former homes, so they could benefit from whanau support and their children did have to repeatedly change schools.

The new pupils had settled in well, but that would not always be the case. It would be challenging if the 140-pupil school got half a dozen high-needs children without warning, he said.

The former holiday camp, comprising 14 one-bedroom units with shared kitchen and bathrooms, was bought by Te Runanga o Whaingaroa, with assistance from Te Puni Kokiri. It has a three-year contract with the Ministry for Social Development to provide transitional housing.

Runanga chairman Murray Moses said that the organisation was committed to helping any whanau living in overcrowded, homeless situations.

"Whether they are local or further afield, their circumstances and needs are no less, they are all whanau," he said.

Chief executive Toa Faneva said families would receive wrap-around support, including help with financial capability, employment and addiction, and be helped into sustainable, long-term housing. Emergency accommodation, social housing and affordable homes were all part of the runanga's housing strategy, he said.

MSD's deputy chief executive for housing Scott Gallacher said the runanga had been open with local schools about its plans, but would follow up directly with principals in case there were other concerns that had not yet been voiced.

The runanga was working closely with Kaeo Primary School, the Far North District Council and Work and Income, for financial support but also for job opportunities for people staying at the complex.

Mr Barker agreed that Kaeo needed more emergency housing, with the runanga's existing Turner Street accommodation always "chocka-block". Ultimately the problem came down to the sell-off of state housing and the government's reliance on the market to fix the housing problem, which wasn't working.