The 10 highest earners for emergency housing funding in Tauranga city have been revealed with the top two receiving more than $1 million in grants last year.
Figures obtained from the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) under an Official Information Act request showed what each motel and holiday home provider was paid In emergency housing grants in 2020.
Between January 1 and December 31, last year, the top 10 Tauranga accommodation providers earned a total of $6,661,375.
City Suites Motel in central Tauranga received the most with $1,013,143.20 paid by the Ministry for the year.
During the first quarter of the year, the number of grants and client numbers was not itemised by the Ministry for this emergency housing provider.
However, for the balance of the year, City Suites received 597 grants in relation to 132 clients. City Suites' owner declined to comment.
According to Ministry data, the second-highest earner was Ambassador Motor Inn which received 324 grants totalling $868,216.50 for housing 93 clients last year.
However, the owner Kerry-Anne Howlett has disputed the Ministry's figures.
Howlett said last year she had a total of 56 guests and received $107,000 in grants according to her own MSD booking system records.
"For the period January to June 2020, I only had nine guests and since then the numbers of emergency housing guests staying here have steadily been reducing," she said.
Howlett said most of those clients had been staying in her old block of eight units, five of which had been renovated this year and were no longer available for MSD clients.
Refurbishment was due to start on the last three old units, which meant the facility was not able to accommodate further emergency housing clients.
Howlett said once the last emergency housing guest moved on the motor inn would revert to accepting corporate clients only.
The Bay of Plenty Times asked the Ministry to double-check the figures it provided. It confirmed the data was "accurate according to the information we hold".
Roselands Motel and Rainbow Motel were the third and fourth highest earners at $849,599 and $757,567 respectively.
Roselands Motel's owner was not available for comment according to the motel manager.
Rainbow Motel received 456 grants totalling $757,567 for 99 clients including 27 in the December quarter.
Owner Andy Liu said it had been a "very challenging" year as some clients had complex needs and not all his emergency housing guests respected the motel rules.
Earlier this year he was left with a major renovation bill of about $5000 after one of the units was damaged and there were other breakages and repairs from time to time, he said.
Liu said he would reduce the number of emergency housing placements to a more manageable level of up to a dozen clients, which would be fairer to other paid guests.
"There have been occasions when I have been almost in tears and have wanted to stop taking any more WINZ clients but because I have also had good clients I have carried on."
Cobblestone Court Motel was paid $709,362 in relation to 66 clients, and its owner, who was away on leave, was also not available for comment.
Bruce Blakeborough, co-owner of the Aqua Beachfront Motel on Marine Parade - paid $439,743 and at ninth on the list - said he and wife Dawn treated their guest like family members.
"We try to help our guests as much as possible and that includes taking the mothers supermarket shopping if they don't have a car.
"We encourage our guests to treat the motel as their own home and many of our guests are solo mothers with children who are often very distraught when they first arrive here."
Blakeborough said, while it was a business, their first priority was treating guests with "compassion and respect".
"Some moteliers tend to push emergency housing clients out during the summer holiday breaks so they can earn the higher rates but we don't do that.
"A lot of our former guest come back to see us after they have moved on which is fantastic as we love to hear how they are getting on," Blackborough said.
He found the Ministry's case managers to be "very understanding and caring people who only want the best for their clients as we also do".
Summit Motor Lodge, ranked eighth in the top 10 earners, receiving $440,024 in grants. The manager declined to comment.
BOP Accommodation Limited owner and director Dipak Prasad Upreti said he had been a registered emergency housing provider since about May 2019.
He and his company were paid $451,798 and $429,932 respectively in 2020.
Upreti said he owned 17 holiday homes in the Tauranga area but no longer had a large number of emergency housing guests.
"I found it very challenging because of the complex needs of some of our guests and I also experienced a significant amount of damage at some of our homes."
He still accepted the odd emergency housing placement, recently including a family of six including four children who had been sleeping in a tent in a park.
"They desperately needed somewhere safe and warm to live until they can find an alternative place to go. I couldn't say no especially when young children were involved.
"We try to help these people as much as we can and if the family keeps the home nice and tidy I'll help them look for a place and give them a reference to help with their search."
The sixth-highest earner was the Fountain Court Motel on Turret Rd which was paid $701,931 for 69 emergency housing guests. The owner was approached for comment.
Ministry general manager of housing Karen Hocking said in 2020 there had been a "significant increase" in demand for emergency housing as the Ministry supported people through the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hocking said due to the Covid-19 lockdown restrictions, people were not easily able to move out of emergency housing places into long-term accommodation.
This contributed to longer durations of stays and higher costs of accommodation in 2020 where people could safely self-isolate, she said.
"Our role is to implement government policy. Our responsibility in regards to housing is to ensure that people with no other option have somewhere safe to stay."