The Government is reviewing its public housing criteria for Rotorua after an outcry from locals who learned out-of-town homeless could be housed in new Kāinga Ora homes.
Rotorua residents say the existing system of how public housing is allocated is not good enough.
They demand government assurance that no more out-of-town homeless people will be allowed to come to the city and that new state houses will eventually see a reduction in emergency housing in motels.
Kāinga Ora Bay of Plenty regional director Darren Toy confirmed "most" people chosen for the new housing developments would come from Rotorua and "surrounding areas".
Toy said in some cases, people may come from other areas for reasons such as returning to Rotorua because they used to live there or having local family, iwi or other support networks.
Following questions from the Rotorua Daily Post, Housing Minister Megan Woods said she was asking for officials' advice on Kāinga Ora's system, noting the policy had been in place for many years.
Woods said Rotorua had "acute" housing needs and a flexible approach used by the Government over emergency housing motels could be extended to ensure new public housing in Rotorua was made available to those already in emergency housing in Rotorua.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said it was "absolutely my expectation" that homes built locally were for Rotorua people needing housing.
"The fact locals don't necessarily get preference highlights that the public housing allocation settings are out of date and I'll certainly raise it as a concern."
Chadwick said having locals in the new houses was fundamental to what the council was trying to achieve with its task force and housing strategy.
"We have been loud and clear – and insistent – in our message to the Government that Rotorua can not be the solution to homelessness across New Zealand, that we need to get people out of motels and into proper, safe, appropriate housing and that we need new homes as quickly as possible to enable that to happen."
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said the Government took over motels "to dump people from around the country in" but the Kāinga Ora homes should be for Rotorua people "exclusively - end of story".
He said the wording of the government criteria for who was eligible was "worrying".
"Rotorua people know what the Government has done to our city and they're rightly outraged."
McClay said he would raise Kāinga Ora's criteria in Parliament.
"Crime is up, unlawful behaviour is up, begging is up and harassment is up. Fenton St has been ruined ... We want our city back and the Government using it to solve the country's homelessness problem is unacceptable."
He called for a "sinking lid policy" to ensure no more out-of-towners come to Rotorua for housing.
"The tourism sector needs those beds and our town cannot cope with more homeless being dumped here. If they're not from Rotorua the Government should house them back where they've come from."
Restore Rotorua chairman Trevor Newbrook said state homes being bought and built in the city should be for local people in emergency housing.
Newbrook said former Rotorua residents keen to return should not be allowed a Kāinga Ora home until the city's housing crisis was solved.
"The Government and Kāinga Ora need to change their policies so that these new homes will be for people who live in Rotorua."
Rotorua mother Nat Davies has been living in emergency housing for three years and said she was desperate for a home and would feel "p***** off" if someone from out-of-town was given one ahead of her.
Davies said there were hundreds of people living in emergency housing motels and it was not right out-of-towners could be given priority.
Davies, who has four children aged under 9 and another on the way, said her children lived with her parents in Rotorua because it was not suitable to have them at the motels.
The only way she could get her children back was to have a proper home "but I can't afford a private rental - $600 a week for a three-bedroom house is too much".
She's now in her seventh emergency housing motel since January 2019.
"I've met lots of ladies down here [in motels] who are in the same situation as me and they're not doing too well."
She said she knew of lots of people living in the motels who weren't originally from Rotorua.
"I know quite a few from out of town and quite a few have come from Tauranga. We already have a housing crisis here. Just because we have motels here, the Government think they can send everyone here."
Ministry of Social Development figures provided to the Rotorua Daily Post from March last year showed 79 per cent of those in emergency housing were from Rotorua, 8 per cent from surrounding towns and 12 per cent from other parts of New Zealand but "generally" had a connection to Rotorua.
The ministry's Bay of Plenty regional commissioner, Mike Bryant, repeatedly said it did not actively move people to Rotorua but it was also the ministry's focus to ensure people were not homeless and sleeping rough.
In response to government criticism, Woods said National sold 50 state houses in Rotorua and there had been a surge of activity by Kāinga Ora with a focus on new housing.
Rotorua Labour List MP Tāmati Coffey said moving desperate families out of emergency housing was a tough job Kāinga Ora managers did every day.
"We all need to just get out of the way and let Kāinga Ora do their job of building homes and placing families with the highest needs - that's their job."
Wairiki MP Rawiri Waititi said it should be a priority that new Kāinga Ora houses built in Rotorua were for Rotorua whānau needing a home, targeting those in emergency housing.
"There is a magnitude of housing issues facing Māori due to a failed system that has kept Māori out of the housing market and has kept our people homeless.
"Although Māori did not create the housing crisis, iwi Māori are best-placed to support and guide Māori towards long-lasting solutions which will provide them with safe and secure housing."
The new houses
* Ranolf St/Malfroy Rd - 37 homes (stage 1 development)
* Quartz Ave (formerly Collie Drive) 37 homes (stage 1 development) plus 5 new homes being redeveloped on existing neighbouring Kāinga Ora sites corner of Quartz Ave and Homedale St
* 35 redevelopments on 10 existing Kāinga Ora sites
* Owhata Rd development 50-60 new homes
* Pukuatua St 24 apartments