Iwi around the country are stamping their mark on the business world and providing employment opportunities, health, education, social services and cultural connections. Carmen Hall spent a week with Ngāi Te Rangi and got a rare insight into the iwi's operations. This is part five in the series.
Some emergency housing providers in New Zealand are "cowboys" in it only for the money, an iwi leader claims.
And a social service leader describes government funding in the sector as "misery money" and wants a lens put on organisations making "lucrative" earnings accommodating the homeless.
But ministries that hold the emergency and transitional housing portfolios say regular reviews are held and contract providers are there to support residents.
Housing homeless people is a big business. The Government has spent more than $1.2 billion on emergency housing grants alone since 2017. In Rotorua, the spend in the quarter to March was $5.4 million, and $4m in Tauranga.
The Ministry for Social Development (MSD), which oversees emergency housing, supports 1200 people through 65 "navigators" nationally with a focus on whānau with tamariki (children). Requests for regional data, including funding, required an Official Information Act request.
Transitional housing costs are on top of that - more than $253.9m nationally in 2020-21.
As of April, there were 5239 transitional housing places supported by 64 providers contracted by the Ministry for Housing and Urban Development (MHUD).
It contracts 12 providers in the Bay of Plenty, including Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Te Rangi Iwi Trust.
Ngāi Te Rangi chief executive Paora Stanley told NZME the funding within the social sector was highly sought after and, in his view, there were a lot of "excellent storytellers" nationally, spinning good tales to get the money.
He questioned whether there was a level playing field between Māori and non-Māori organisations and their commitment to helping Māori. He believed some providers were clipping the ticket but failing to provide the promised services.
In Stanley's opinion, the Government's idea of how providers should operate did not favour iwi.
"It's much easier for them to deal with Pākehā agencies who say they cover us but we cover triballing and it's quite different. You have bottom feeders who feed off the plight of Māori and then you end up with these scraps because there isn't enough money to go around."
In July, Ngāi Te Rangi pumped $2 million - matching a Government funding contribution - into a Tauranga apartment block with transitional housing for up to 33 people.
It offered services including social workers, employment brokers and counsellors, an onsite security manager and reconnection with their tribe and culture.
The iwi also looked after some homeless in motels.
The collective nature of what it did was often overlooked, Stanley said, and he believed the sector needed a shake-up.
"Some organisations make the government departments and the ministers feel warm and cuddly but when you break down the services they provide you soon find out who the good ones are."
"The crap ones ar e... cowboys who are chasing the money."
Stanley said the Government's $1.2 billion in Budget 2022 for Māori health, education and employment was overdue.
"When the programmes are run by us [Māori] we have significant knowledge to make them successful."
Tauranga's Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services executive director Tommy Wilson said he believed a lens needed to be put on all providers of emergency and transitional properties in New Zealand.
He agreed there were some cowboys in the sector nationally and said some operators needed a hard look at their tikanga (practices).
"Why are they doing it? At the moment it is a sexy subject and the microscope needs to be put on them."
Te Tuinga Whānau was founded 37 years ago and rents motel rooms and homes for transitional housing.
"We stand by every one of our houses and we are not there to just give people a food parcel and send them on their way ... that is our point of difference."
"Other organisations are making lucrative amounts of money out of what we call misery. It's misery money."
A Salvation Army spokesperson said it frequently visited whānau and reported monthly on people in its care.
In Tauranga, it managed 30 stand-alone one- to four-bedroom properties. More than three-quarters of its Bay of Plenty clients between April and mid-June transitioned into long-term housing - mainly state homes.
Restore Rotorua campaigns against the Government's use of motels in the tourism town as social housing.
Chairman Trevor Newbrook said he wanted to know what the wraparound services talked of meant.
He also wanted to know who monitored the more than 40 Rotorua motels used this way.
A spokesman from the Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho-Ake Trust said the turmoil of the past two years had not changed underlying housing challenges.
"We are talking about families, young tamariki, grandparents and mokopuna who are homeless due to many factors, many of which are beyond their control.
"No one thinks living in motels is a desirable long-term solution for homelessness, however, it is better than the alternative: living in garages and cars, or sleeping rough."
He said community-led housing hub Te Pokapū was set up in response to the crisis in Rotorua to help improve emergency housing results for people in motels and the community.
Prominent Rotorua social housing service provider Visions of a Helping Hand declined to comment for this story.
Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said the council wanted the motels to be well managed with support services available.
"We know those motels formally contracted to MHUD are well managed and have support in place but like the community, are concerned about many of the uncontracted places."
MHUD acting general manager of partnerships and performance Will Barris said all of the ministry's transitional housing providers had Te Kāhui Kāhu social service provider accreditation, which was formally reviewed every two years.
Providers were responsible for tenancy management services and making sure properties were warm, safe, dry and well maintained.
"These providers also support the people living there, helping them access services like MSD, budgeting advice and health services ... [and] to support them in securing permanent housing."
Rotorua's Te Pokapū hub was an example of a kaupapa Māori approach to assessing needs and was staffed by iwi, MSD and local health workers.
"Whānau are linked with appropriate support and supported into available accommodation that is most suitable for whānau needs. Te Hau Ki Te Kāinga – the collective group of support service providers, provide onsite support at each of the Rotorua contracted emergency housing motels."
Services included relational support to help whānau settle, numeracy and literacy training and health assessments by an onsite team.
MSD Bay of Plenty regional commissioner Mike Bryant said when it contracted services from a provider, it must report back to the ministry on the outcomes delivered.
"If outcomes do not meet our expectations, we expect improvement."
Bryant said the ministry knew people in emergency accommodation could have complex needs and each was assigned a case manager.
"Support is specific to the individual or whānau, and aims to address the issues underlying homelessness by connecting people with things like budgeting advice, addiction programmes, and pre-employment preparation."
In Rotorua, it was funding onsite support services from two providers for 245 people in emergency housing, as part of the Rotorua Taskforce.
In the rest of the Bay of Plenty, it had contracted 24 "navigators" to provide support services, from eight provider organisations, Bryant said.
Navigators visit people in emergency housing and help them overcome barriers.
Emergency v transitional housing
• Emergency housing is for people in urgent need and could include motels. The Ministry for Social Development can help people pay for this accommodation but does not contract for it.
&bull Transitional housing is provided by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development through contracts with housing providers. It's intended for people to stay in for about 12 weeks at a time.