Police say there has been a "huge" increase in crime in the Fenton St area since emergency housing clients started to fill motels, and local residents say they have had enough.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick says she is "very concerned" and is calling a meeting with government agencies and iwi to work on a better plan to ensure locals feel safe.
Rotorua police acting area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said his staff recently plotted the difference in crime trends in the Fenton St strip compared with 12 months ago and he said there was a "huge increase".
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Most of the crimes police were dealing with included family violence and disorder.
He said some of those prepared to talk to police told them they had come from out of town and were staying in emergency housing in the motels.
"We had one couple who had been bailed [to a motel] in Rotorua and they were arrested here for stealing."
The Rotorua Daily Post has spoken to several residents in the Glenholme area who are upset about the increase in crime and were now fearful. However, they didn't want to be named for fear of retribution.
On Saturday the Rotorua Daily Post revealed that in the quarter ending June more than $5 million was spent in Rotorua on emergency housing and special needs grants. That figure far out-stripped other districts in the Bay of Plenty region with the next highest being Tauranga where $2.8m was allocated.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay again raised concerns the figures indicated Rotorua was being used to house emergency housing clients from out of town because the city had more motels. However, the Ministry of Social Development said this was definitely not the case.
The Rotorua Daily Post asked Chadwick about the crime issue and she said: "I'm very concerned about this and we need to see some change."
She said she had spoken to some of the government agency leaders and iwi leader Sir Toby Curtis and a meeting was being called to "get the facts on the table and agree on a plan to address what's happening".
"We need a better way to co-ordinate a targeted all-of-government response so we can maximise the benefits of collective effort and get better outcomes for our community. Council can help to pull that together."
She said she was "not happy" with what she was hearing and was "very aware" of the additional pressure on police as a result of not only the increase in emergency housing, but also the role they had to play with managed isolation facilities.
"People need to feel safe in their homes, in their businesses and in their communities.
"Our housing plan addresses supply but these social issues that are escalating into increasing levels of crime and making residents feel unsafe require a more immediate response.
"It's unacceptable and Rotorua can't – and won't – be a dumping ground for problems from other areas."
Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Mike Bryant told the Rotorua Daily Post most people receiving emergency housing help in Rotorua were from Rotorua.
He said the ministry did not make people move from one town to another and those who did move to Rotorua were likely to be coming home or returning for personal reasons.
"It's important those needing housing don't have to live in cars or sleep rough. Many of those who come to us for emergency housing assistance are vulnerable and have circumstances that make it hard for them to get accommodation in the private sector."
He said the housing team supported the accommodation needs of more than 1000 people across the region on a weekly basis.
"We are committed to ensuring all people have somewhere safe, warm and dry to stay.
"Our clients include families with children and motels can provide the best current short-term option to ensure they are close to schools and can remain engaged with their community."
Bryant said the ministry worked hard with accommodation owners, partner agencies and community groups to resolve any issues and to offer wraparound support services.
"We are disappointed when a small percentage of people create a negative perception of all ... We would expect that moteliers talk to us if they have concerns about behaviour."
A spokesman from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, which also provided housing support, said each of their motels in Rotorua had security staff in place.
"We work with relevant authorities at all times to ensure any instances of anti-social behaviour are managed quickly."
Rotorua district councillor Sandra Kai Fong was asked by the Rotorua Daily Post to comment because she lives in the heart of the area of concern.
She said parts of Fenton St were looking "so tired and lacking investment".
"This has been exacerbated with the change in use from owner-operator tourist motels to short-term emergency accommodation."
She described it as having an "adverse visual impact" on visitors' impression of Rotorua when they arrived from the south and when other visitors were heading south to access the main mountain biking area where there were unkempt premises and coned security entrances to motels.
"Residents of Glenholme and Fenton Park have expressed concerns about not feeling safe walking down Fenton St, the proliferation of shopping trolleys and the rise in theft and petty crime."
Tiny Deane from Visions of a Helping Hand Trust, which operated Tuscany Villas and Emerald Spa Resort for the homeless, said their security stamped out most problems. He said there had been issues from time to time on Fenton St but it had been relatively good lately.
He said he used people staying at their motels to collect all the dumped shopping trolleys on Fenton St and return them to the stores once a week.
One motelier, who didn't want to be named, said he was now more experienced at knowing who he should accept because there were many emergency housing clients who caused trouble and destroyed rooms.
However, he said he felt for other naive moteliers who were desperate to make a living after a drop off in tourists and were taking in "anyone and everyone".
'It was supposed to be our forever home'
A Rotorua couple say they are sad after buying what they hoped was their "forever home" on Lytton St last year only to now be dealing with feeling unsafe on a daily basis.
The couple said they had dreams of their children riding their bikes and walking to school, but they were now afraid of their neighbourhood because of the bad element hanging around motels on the Fenton St strip, which is off Lytton St.
The woman said they had dealt with stolen cars from neighbouring properties, sheds broken into, people coming on to their lawn trying to steal their children's toys and people loitering around "scoping" out their home.
The man said they saw groups of gang affiliates standing around motels, witnessed drug deals, saw fights and family violence arguments.
"The other day driving into town to work I counted 23 dumped shopping trolleys."
On another occasion, he said a man had set some electrical equipment on fire on the side of Fenton St and on a different occasion he saw a woman running down Fenton St "half-naked" being chased by a man.
Every time they witness such behaviour they ring the police.
The woman said the problems had become so bad, they had now installed a sensor alarm around their house, which notified them whenever someone walked on to their property. On the first night, it went off at 1am and they found a hooded man standing in their driveway.
Again they called police.
"I am really saddened by what we are experiencing. We moved here because it was supposed to be our forever home. We moved here so our kids could ride their bikes and walk to school but I'm not confident in that at all. I'm sad but it makes us pretty angry too."
The man said everyone on their street had stories to tell.
"It's really intimidating. My concern is the mentality of [government agencies] who are supporting this. It's ruining the perception of Rotorua and we want all the domestic tourists we can get. We need to be tidying this up, not making it permanently worse."