Rotorua is sold across New Zealand and around the world as a tourist mecca where culture meets natural wonder.
Outdoor pursuits such as adventure biking are combined with beautiful lakes and forests, café culture and eateries. But look closer and there is a sad undertone of poverty, homelessness and struggling coming from all areas of our town.
Weapons, drugs and violence lead Tuesday's paper with Rotorua moteliers citing a crisis in the emergency housing solutions in our city. Moteliers, while not forced to take on housing tenants, can hardly say no to regular income, especially over the quieter winter months.
Moteliers accept the money but their motels often get trashed.
This is not a good look along Fenton St, our "motel mile", and a part of the face of Rotorua's tourism industry that visitors first see.
Who follows up on the tenants once they are placed into motels? If you need emergency or transitional accommodation, then that's fine, but don't trash and abuse it!
An increase in mental health issues, violence, gang behaviour and domestic abuse are listed as some of the problems these moteliers are then forced to deal with. Not to mention, the wear and tear of housing regular tenants on their properties, the inability to clean and keep facilities tidy and the increase in household rubbish that lines the streets outside some of the motels.
Moteliers are feeling the pinch of not really having a choice of who is to receive emergency housing within their units and often tenants are staying much longer than initially expected.
Regular money from housing emergency tenants is one way moteliers can survive. But does this mean they need to be dealing with issues beyond their control or experience? Nationwide there are more than 2500 households living in motels for either emergency or transitional housing.
Landlords and rental agencies have the power and the right to choose the best possible tenants for properties, making matches that are most likely to cover rent, keep properties tidy and well maintained and protect them for owners.
Exclusions such as pets, family size per property, regular income and past rental references are hard to stack up against more selective criteria such as gang connections, beneficiaries, drug use, and mental health issues.
So what else is contributing to the lack of housing in Rotorua?
The crisis in finding homes for everyone has been compounded over recent years with an increase in new residents. Combine this with an increase in Airbnb properties and the stark realisation that Rotorua just doesn't have the space or land to keep creating new builds, some new kind of solution needs to be materialised.
Poverty breeds poverty and sadly this cycle is hard to break.
Just where can our own people live?
Rotorua needs money to progress and even an increase in international fee-paying students puts pressure on the availability of tenanted accommodation for locals.
With Housing New Zealand only owning a certain number of properties across New Zealand and trying to find housing suitable for different size families and situations, their resources are stretched to the limits.
There are only 652 homes in Rotorua with a further 42 homes under construction or development. In the past, three-bedroom homes met the needs – however, these days there is a higher demand for either one to two-bedroom homes or larger four-five bedroom homes.
Does Housing New Zealand need to take back larger full-size sections that state houses encompass and look to build a mix of smaller and larger dwellings on each site?
Do we move to apartment-style blocks of housing that can accommodate higher numbers of tenants?
Bottom line is we need more homes.
But where can we put them? How has it come to this? Are there more pockets of land that are currently in trusts or farmland that can somehow be negotiated into being purchased by the Government for more housing projects. Or is that another Ihumātao waiting to happen?
What is the value of such land?
Can bought land be better utilised supporting our own people and alleviate stress from moteliers and the local housing crisis? And how can we utilise and protect such land while at the same time increasing the number of new houses available for short and long term rent?
Rotorua is not alone in this plight for reducing homelessness. There are other cities and urban areas screaming out for help. This should be a top priority for our Government who promised change but have as yet failed to deliver working solutions.
It is good to see the moteliers association joining together to support each other and to look for new ideas.
While the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development and Housing New Zealand were not present, a representative from the Ministry of Social Development was also in attendance at a recent moteliers association meeting.
Since the meeting, the three government departments have released a joint statement:
"Ending homelessness is a priority for Government. Every person has a right to a warm, dry, secure and safe place to live. Where local authorities are addressing homelessness and housing issues, key government agencies will connect to offer assistance to solutions."
Perhaps our Government now needs to put their money (and ours) where their mouth is.
• Jane Trask is a Rotorua mother and a former dance and physical education teacher. She has a bachelor of sport and leisure studies and a postgraduate teaching diploma in PE and dance. She studied journalism as part of her university degree and she has always had a strong interest in print journalism.