Thirteen contracted emergency housing motels in Rotorua have been given the green light to continue operating in the city - but only for two years with a range of conditions.
Independent commissioners today released their decision relating to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development’s resource consent applications to allow the motels to continue operating emergency housing in Rotorua.
The ministry asked for the consents to be granted for five years but commission chairman David Hill and fellow commissioners Sheena Tepania and Greg Hill disagreed, only allowing all 13 to have resource consent for two years.
The motels granted consent are Alpin Motel (Sala St), Emerald Spa (Fenton St) Geneva Motor Lodge (Fenton St), Malones Motel (Fenton St), Midway Motel (Fenton St), New Castle (Ward Ave), Pohutu Lodge (Meade St) Lake Rotorua Hotel (Lake Rd), Ascot on Fenton (Fenton St), Rotovegas Motel (Fenton St), Ann’s Volcanic Motel (Malfroy Rd), Union Victoria (Victoria St) and Apollo Hotel (Tyron St).
The contracted emergency housing motels are managed by social support agencies Visions of a Helping Hand, Wera Aotearoa or Emerge Aotearoa. These agencies also offer wraparound social services.
The motels have the potential to allow emergency housing for 868 people in 297 motel units.
The applications attracted 3841 submissions from 350 submitters and a significant majority were in opposition to the consents being granted.
Among the conditions was a heavy focus on better interacting with the community. These include the ministry being responsible for setting up a Community Liaison Group for the duration of the consent that will include three community members, one tourism representative and one member of Restore Rotorua. They are to meet at least every six months.
Six-monthly meetings must also be held with the council to give updates on the conditions and assess if the demand was still enough to keep the contract going for the full two years.
Some conditions include having a meeting within a month with Whakarewarewa Village and Te Puia representatives and offering to have six-monthly meetings after that.
The motels must cover all motel signage and remove online advertising, those staying there are not allowed dogs and there must be staff at the motel at all times. They must appoint a contact person who would be available to the council at all times.
There is also to be careful selection of who is in the motels, daily maintenance of grounds, programmed maintenance of buildings and control of noise.
The decisions said anecdotal evidence from a number of submitters demonstrated a clear impression that there had been adverse reputational effects to Rotorua from the use of motels for emergency housing overall but it was less clear to what extent that could be attributed to contracted emergency housing.
“We accept that EH [emergency housing] has had an adverse effect on the amenity of Rotorua and the neighbourhood of Glenholme in particular. We find that adverse neighbourhood amenity effect to be significant from all of the EH activities, and we cannot with any confidence say this is or is not the result of the 13 CEH [contracted emergency housing] applications as we have already found earlier.”
Restore Rotorua chairman Trevor Newbrook told the Rotorua Daily Post he was disappointed the commissioners had granted all 13 resource consents given the number of submissions and strong public feedback opposing them.
“However it is good that the duration of the consents is two years, not the five years applied for.”
He said that following Housing Minister Megan Woods’ recent announcement to reduce Rotorua emergency housing motels to near zero, it sent a clear message the Government needed to “get on with the job now”.
Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell said Rotorua had been asking for an end date and she was glad it now had one.
“While these motels are consented for two years, as per our accord [Rotorua Housing Accord], we will still be working to progressively reduce the number required as quickly as possible and expect that unmanaged emergency housing motels will be consolidated into these 13 consented motels.
“Our focus remains on ending the mixed-use of motels for emergency housing immediately. I appreciate the time and effort members of our community have put into preparing submissions for this process and hope this outcome provides certainty that we are on our way to a better future.”