Families in need of emergency housing are being "dumped" in a holiday camp in one of the poorest towns in New Zealand, a school principal says.
Paul Barker, principal of Kaeo Primary School, said the first he knew that a new "transitional housing" centre had started taking families was when three children turned up at school on Monday last week. On Wednesday two more arrived.
The families were from Kaikohe and Kawakawa. They are expected to stay at the former Whangaroa Harbour Holiday Park for up three months until more permanent accommodation is found.
Mr Barker said his concern was not with the children - "They're lovely kids, clearly well loved and looked after" - but the fact their families appeared to have been dumped in Kaeo, a town with few resources and its own housing issues.
An Auckland University study released last week ranked Kaeo and the Whangaroa area among the most deprived in New Zealand.
"We have enough problems in our own community in terms of overcrowding and substandard housing. It doesn't make sense to be shipping other people to us."
Mr Barker said the families should be housed close to their former homes, so they could make use of whanau support and their children did not have to repeatedly change schools.
The new pupils had settled in well but that would not always be the case. It would be challenging if the 140-pupil school got half a dozen high-needs children without warning, he said.
The former holiday camp was bought by health, education and social services provider Te Runanga o Whaingaroa using its own money plus funding from Te Puni Kokiri (Ministry of Maori Development). It has a three-year contract with the Ministry for Social Development (MSD) to provide transitional housing.
Te Runanga o Whaingaroa chief executive Toa Faneva was not available yesterday, but did release a statement in which chairman Murray Moses said the organisation was committed to helping any whanau living in overcrowded, homeless situations.
"Whether they are local or further afield, their circumstances and needs are no less, they are all whanau."
Mr Faneva stated families would receive wraparound support including help with financial capability, employment and addiction, and be helped into sustainable, long-term housing.
Emergency accommodation, social housing and affordable homes were all part of the runanga's housing strategy, he said.
The campground's original name, Te Nohoanga, meant a place where waka could shelter from storms. It was returning to its role as a safe haven for people in need, he said.
MSD deputy chief executive for housing Scott Gallacher said the runanga was putting substantial resources into the project, and had been open with local schools about their plans to turn the holiday park into housing for vulnerable families.
"But they will follow up directly with principals in case there are other concerns that have not yet been voiced," he said.
The runanga was working closely with Kaeo Primary School, the Far North District Council and Work and Income, not just for financial support but also for job opportunities for people staying at the complex, Mr Gallacher said.
Mr Barker agreed that Kaeo needed more emergency housing with the runanga's existing Turner St accommodation always "chock-a-block".
Ultimately the problem came down to the sell-off of state housing and the Government's reliance on the market to fix the housing problem, which Mr Barker said wasn't working.