A makeshift homeless shelter operated by a charitable trust at an Anglican Church-owned site has ceased operating after Tauranga City Council enforcement action. Sandra Conchie has looked into the background to the council's enforcement action and spoken to the trustees at the centre of homeless activities on the site and a representative from the Anglican Church.
A makeshift campsite housing 24 homeless people has been closed because the trust operating the site could not afford to meet council regulations.
Failure to comply with the regulations including applying for a resource consent could have resulted in prosecution.
Te Whare Ora 111 Charitable Trust which formed in October last year, was using the Ohauiti Rd, Anglican Church-owned property as an emergency haven for homeless people.
At one stage 24 people, including family groups and singles, were living on the site.
The facilities included a community hall with a common space, kitchen, toilets and a shower. A number of caravans were also parked on the site.
The trust was informed earlier this year it had breached the council regulations under City Plan rules due to too many people living at the property and its residential-zoned location.
The council held various compliance meetings with the trust and church representatives then sent the church's governing body an abatement notice in August.
The notice warned that failure to comply may lead to prosecution, the council's regulatory and compliance general manager Barbara Dempsey confirmed.
The trust was given until February 29 to either obtain a resource consent or to stop providing accommodation at the site, she said.
Te Whare Ora 111 trustee Hoki Bruce said it decided to close the campsite on August 31 saying it was ''all too hard'' to keep it open without significant financial support.
"We worked hard to clean up the site, reduce our homeless numbers to 12, and resolve other compliance concerns to the satisfaction of the council," Bruce said.
"We think the council could have helped us more than they did, given all the millions spent on cricket grounds, hockey fields and cycleways. We're talking about people who were sleeping on the streets or in cars before they moved to the church site."
Bruce said applying for resource consent was not possible without significant financial support.
The trust told the council in May this year it would take almost $700,000 to replace the temporary facilities with more permanent emergency accommodation.
This included installing portable homes, bathrooms and upgrading the hall to include a commercial kitchen, fencing to the property and a number of security measures.
Bruce said the trust had applied for grants from other charitable trusts, including TECT, and Acorn Foundation, and while TECT was willing to provide a $20,000 grant, it was conditional on having resource consent.
"Council could have granted us an exemption to carry on at the Church site or possibly offered us a building to relocate to until we could secure the funding we needed."
Fellow trustee Vicki Davies said one family group was still living on the site under a private arrangement with the Anglican Church but other homeless people had moved on or found alternative housing.
"But the homeless crisis in Tauranga hasn't gone away, in fact, it's growing. Council has an obligation to support our most vulnerable residents, which are our homeless."
Davies said the trust intended carrying on with its plans but needed a vacant building possibly in the downtown Tauranga area.
Reverend Wiremu Anania, of the Anglican Church, said he was "saddened" it had come to a point where the council had put its foot down and effectively forced the hands of the trust to close the homeless campsite.
"We met with the council in July, and we are quite disappointed with the council's actions and how they have handled this matter.
"I believe the council could have been more supportive and taken a far more lenient approach.''
Dempsey said the council had worked closely with the trust since the beginning of the year.
"Our goal has been to help them seek compliance rather than take a prosecution.''
Dempsey said the council had frequently met with the trust and explained its obligations and what options and assistance they had access to.
Dempsey said the council understood the trust's motives which is why it provided support to help it meet regulations.
"This included the council providing rubbish bags and helping with the removal of rubbish from the property, and frequently met with the trustees to help them understand their legal requirements and assist in bringing the property up to code," she said.
Dempsey said the trust also received a $9467 match-funding grant from the council to assist with its establishment costs, policy set-up and legal support.
"The trust's comments are disappointing as staff from across the organisation have gone above and beyond to support them.''
Neighbours had complained about a mountain of rubbish building up on the site and also claimed activities on the site had "degraded" property values in the area.
One complainant, who asked not to be named, said he was pleased to hear about the council's enforcement action but he was not happy it had taken months.