A makeshift campsite for homeless people in Ōhauiti has sparked a backlash from neighbours who say it is lowering property values and posing health risks.
The Ohauiti Rd property is owned by the Anglican Church's Tauranga Moana Parish, which has offered the site as a haven for the homeless.
There were nearly 25 people living there earlier this week.
The 3820sq m lot is bordered by residential homes and contains a disused chapel near the main road and makeshift campsite of five caravans and a tent.
It also has an older-style community hall with wooden floors, two toilets, a shower, a washroom, two rooms being used as bedrooms, two couches and a TV on the wall.
The building has some paint peeling on the outside, but when a journalist visited it was warm inside and clean and tidy. People living there say they share cleaning and cooking duties.
But neighbours say the bathroom and toilets are not enough to serve the number of people living there.
They had earlier complained about a mountain of rubbish onsite and claimed property values in the area were being "degraded".
The site was initially overseen by Te Tuinga Whanau Support Services Trust as a refuge for up to 20 homeless displaced from motels during last September's Aims Games.
The trust stopped being involved and those living there moved on. Te Whare Ora Charitable Trust, which formed in October, stepped forward and other homeless moved in.
Te Whare Ora trustee Jackie Marsh told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend the trust was working with 24 homeless people, including eight children, after negotiating with the Anglican Church to continue to use the site.
The occupants were a mixture of people from challenging backgrounds and displaced working people homeless through no fault of their own, she said.
Marsh said 80 per cent of the tenants were working, and most of the others were looking for work and somewhere to live.
Ten people were living in the hall and most of the rest were in five caravans, one of which was self-contained. A single man was living in a tent but looking for a caravan, she said.
Marsh said some of those who had jobs showered at their workplace.
One of the homeless men has since moved his caravan to the top part of the church site and was helping the trust oversee the property, Marsh said.
Most of the rubbish had since been removed with the council's help and the rest was expected to be taken away in the coming week, she said.
Environmental protection staff visited the site on Friday last week and identified two minor compliance issues relating to a smoke alarm, and shower and kitchen.
Marsh said the trust had worked with the council to resolve these and was now compliant.
The Bay of Plenty Times Weekend has asked Deputy Mayor Kelvin Clout and the council's media team to verify this.
But one irate resident, who asked not to be named, said he had complained to Tauranga City Council several times.
"It's outrageous for this to happen and the situation is extremely unhealthy sanitary-wise ..."
Images were sent anonymously to NZME of some of the rubbish which had built up on the site earlier this month before the clean-up began .
The man said in his opinion the rubbish which had built up on the property had posed ''a serious fire hazard".
Neighbours should have been consulted, he said.
"It's a bloody campsite and ... shouldn't be allowed," he said.
Another resident said she was concerned for her children's safety because of strangers coming and going all hours.
Marsh said the trust had met with council staff last Friday, and most of the issues of concern had now been resolved to the council's satisfaction.
"We want to work with the neighbouring residents to resolve their concerns but to suggest their properties are being devalued is degrading, demoralising and unfair."
The trust, which secured $9467 match-funding from the council, plans to apply to become an emergency transitional housing provider in the next 12 months.
Marsh said the trust would also be applying to charitable trusts for grants.
Reverend Wiremu Anania, of the Anglican Church, said the church offered the property as a "safe haven" in response to a desperate need for more emergency housing.
Anania said the plight of the people living there reflected Tauranga's housing crisis and the trust's emergency housing project to help them was still in its "infancy".
"Yes, the living situation on site was not a perfect situation but the reality is these tenants, some who are caught in the depths of the poverty trap, had nowhere else to go."
Clout said earlier this week that he understood why neighbours were concerned and council staff had been working with the trust to fix some of the issues.
Clout said the trust had faced a number of challenges with its emergency housing project after being "swamped" with people in need.
"Some of these people have clearly slipped through the cracks in terms of support agencies which often have different criteria when it comes to helping people in need.
"We will continue to advocate for central government to support those in need."
The council's environmental protection team leader, Andrew McMath, said when staff visited the property last Friday two minor issues were required to be resolved.
"These were not related to rubbish. In addition, staff are working closely with the trust to facilitate the removal of the rubbish," he said.
Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Mike Bryant said: "We've met with the trust and asked them to encourage people staying at the church site to get in touch with us so we can see what help we might be able to offer them.
"We urge people to come and talk to us about placement on the Social Housing Register."
Bryant said the ministry has a liaison case manager assigned to support anyone who did.
Grateful for a roof
One woman at the makeshift campsite - who would only be identified as ''camp mother" - said she, her husband and their six children moved to the site about 10 weeks ago.
She said they struggled to find another rental after their landlord, who wanted a relative to move into the property, had given them notice.
"My husband has a good job so we're not poor, we're just homeless. It's so embarrassing to find ourselves in this position, and we're just grateful to have a roof over our heads."
Another person living there said: "Yes the facilities are basic but we keep it clean and tidy and every Sunday we have a Bible group meeting and pray together. It's like we're all whanau now."