Tenants of a Government-contracted Rotorua emergency housing motel claim they are being threatened with benefit cuts after they refused to move to another motel.
The alleged threats form part of an official complaint to Government ministers by Rotorua International Motor Inn manager Judith Cunningham, who is making several allegations against Visions of a Helping Hand, the organisation contracted to provide wraparound services and security at her motel.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development ended its contract with Rotorua International Motor Inn, effective from June 1.
Housing Minister Megan Woods said she was aware of the allegations made by Cunningham and had asked officials to urgently look into the allegations
Visions chief executive officer Tiny Deane referred all communication to a lawyer.
Tenants at Rotorua International Motor Inn claim they were told at the end of last week they had five days to move out of the Monokia St motel after its contract with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development was due to come to an end on June 1.
The tenants said they felt safe at the Rotorua International Motor Inn and feared going back to Fenton St motels. They also no longer wanted to be in motels run by Visions of a Helping Hand.
Half of the about 30 families moved as requested but 12 have stayed - with some telling the Rotorua Daily Post Weekend they chose to risk being cut off.
Cunningham told the Rotorua Daily Post Weekend the relationship with Visions soured after she made several complaints about the conduct of its security team.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has contracts with 13 motels in Rotorua to run emergency housing in a more controlled environment, which was part of a Government shake-up of emergency housing announced last year.
As part of the arrangement, the ministry contracts social service groups such as Visions of a Helping Hand, to provide support services.
This week, she wrote an official letter of complaint to Government ministers making several allegations.
Cunningham's letter said social workers told tenants their benefits would stop if they did not move out as they would be deemed to be non-emergency tenants.
Cunningham said in her opinion: "This alone is bullying at its best, this is grossly unfair and not what one would expect of anyone in an organisation that is purporting to be a support service."
She said she was inundated with calls, tears, fear and disbelief from the tenants who had created their own "safe village" at her motel.
Eight tenants at the motel met with the Rotorua Daily Post Weekend this week and said Visions staff told them they had five days to move to another Visions motel, including Emerald Spa, and Tuscany Villas or Union Victoria Motel.
The tenants said they were stressed because many had already been moved from Fenton St motels and did not want to go back for safety reasons.
They had made the best of their situation at the Rotorua International Motor Inn, it was close to their children's schooling and they were away from the issues that were dogging Fenton St.
Despite having plans to return to the tourism market, Cunningham said she supported their decision to stay. She was now going to apply for resource consent to become a standalone emergency housing motel - a soon-to-be enforced requirement stipulated by the Rotorua Lakes Council.
"In the 12 that are staying, there are two elderly, one in their 70s and one in their 80s. One has got a wife who isn't well and he said to me: 'Look after my wife, Judith'.
"These people are desperate. I just can't let them down," she told the Rotorua Daily Post.
Te Kauru Raroa, who lived in a unit with his 15-year-old son, said it was safer at the Rotorua International Motor Inn.
"I am sitting here stressing out where we are going to stay the next day."
The tenants said for months they had been told by Visions staff they would get housing help and wraparound services but it was their opinion they hadn't been offered what was promised, apart from tikanga and te reo classes.
Raroa said when it came to te reo classes, "they were banging on their door at 8am".
"I am fine with my te reo. I just want to know what they are doing about houses. Of course, we have been looking for houses too but we just feel stuck."
Darius Fleet said they felt like prisoners with all their rules.
"They treat us like we are second-class citizens ... I was taking my kids to school this morning and they were writing it down in a journal."
His partner, who only wanted her first name, Nikki, published, said she worked in a bar and had an arrangement to come back to the motel after the 10pm curfew, but she said she was questioned by staff at the weekend when she got back at midnight.
"The bar was busier with no mandates now and they were asking why I was so late. I felt like I had to explain that to them."
There are 13 Government-contracted motels in Rotorua providing emergency housing that is managed by support organisations such as Visions. There are about 350 households in non-contracted motels scattered throughout Rotorua that are getting emergency housing grants from the Ministry of Social Development.
The tenants believed it was their right to choose not to stay in a Government-contracted motel and instead get emergency housing in motels where they felt safe and happy.
Fleet and another tenant, Nathan Hamilton, said they believed Cunningham had done more for them than Visions of a Helping Hand in terms of offering employment and support.
"We are blessed to have Judith, " Hamilton said.
The Rotorua Daily Post Weekend put all allegations made by Cunningham and the tenants to Deane for comment on behalf of Visions of a Helping Hand. The questions were referred to a lawyer, who said the questions had been forwarded to Visions board members to convene a meeting to provide a "considered response".
The lawyer said this was not possible in the two days' notice given by the Rotorua Daily Post.
The lawyer said preliminary instructions were: "Trustees were unable to comment on any of the unsubstantiated matters raised in your emails. We are instructed that all client placements are the responsibility of MSD and are being managed by them."
Housing and Urban Development system delivery and performance deputy chief executive Ben Dalton said the ministry was aware of Cunningham's allegations and was looking into issues raised about Visions.
"All people staying at the Rotorua International Motor Inn will continue to receive their benefits and support. The ministry is working with them to place them into other contracted motels where they have access to social supports. If required, Te Pokapū, the recently opened housing hub, will work with people who need alternative accommodation."