Residents fighting controversial emergency housing motels in Rotorua say they have had a "big win", with the Government now requesting their consenting process be open to the public.
Resident advocate Jenny Peace said it was "about time" and lobby group Restore Rotorua chairman Trevor Newbrook said it had come about from public pressure for transparency.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has applied for resource consent for 13 motels in Rotorua to meet regulatory requirements. The ministry has now asked for all bar one of the applications be publicly notified - which means locals can make submissions.
These motels, which are already operating without resource consent for emergency housing activity, are for mainly families, have wraparound services and security and have been set up as part of a $30m Government shake-up of the emergency housing system in Rotorua.
The council has lodged court action against nine non-contracted motels and it is engaging with about 30 others to request they be compliant.
During the processing of any resource consent application, the planner considers whether the application needs to be notified or not. Among other things, the decision stemmed from the level of relevant adverse environmental effects that a new activity proposed.
Some residents have been fighting the council to make the 13 applications publicly notified after resource consent was granted without the public's knowledge last year to the former Boulevard Motel.
The Government bought the motel for $8.1 million to transform it into transitional housing for 80 people.
For the 13 applications, the council appointed three independent commissioners to decide whether they should be publicly notified. The commissioners will not need to do that now but instead will go straight to making the final decisions on each application.
Peace gathered more than 2200 signatures in an online petition asking the council to make the other resource consent applications publicly notified to allow residents to express their views about the impacts of having emergency housing clients living in their area.
She said she was confident the three commissioners would have ruled in their favour.
"It's about time ... The pressure brought about by Restore Rotorua has paid off. It's nowhere near enough but it's a win for us."
Restore Rotorua - a resident lobby group - engaged lawyers and gathered submissions from locals to fight for the applications to be publicly notified.
Newbrook said the Boulevard Motel consent was done in "secret, behind closed doors" and the only thing that had changed this time around was public pressure on both the council and the ministry to be open and transparent.
"This is a big win for Restore Rotorua and the local people of Rotorua."
McDonald's franchise owner Rob Parry said he intended to have his say on the impacts of emergency housing in the area.
He said this should not be a permanent solution because it wasn't ideal to keep families in motels.
"In motels you have too many people living too close together and you can't have a true housing experience."
While he acknowledged the contracted motels had some parameters around them, he was worried the granting of resource consent would mean they would become more long-term solutions.
"It is just an interim measure and there needs to be a sinking lid and a pathway to get it down to zero motels ... We are dealing with homeless every day begging in the drive-through. It's not a pleasant environment."
Ministry Housing and Services Delivery general manager Jonathan Fraser said the ministry had supplied additional information to the council about its applications and "recognised that there could be a benefit in the wider community having an opportunity to participate in the consenting process".
"Therefore the ministry has requested the applications are publicly notified."
Council planning and development manager Jason Ward said the ministry had requested public notification for 12 of the 13 Rotorua motels it had contracted.
He said the ministry had not requested public notification of the 13th consent application but had advised it would update the panel in the first week of June as to whether it wished to continue to progress that application or not.
Ward said the request for public notification was made at the same time the ministry provided additional information that had been requested and for which the ministry was granted an extension of time by the panel.
"As required as part of the process, council must prepare a recommended approach for public notification which needs to be approved by the panel, including documentation for each application. That work is under way."
He said public notification would occur once the panel had approved the documents and there would be a four-week period for people to make submissions. Each consent application needed its own public notification.
A timetable for hearings and decision-making by the independent panel will be advised by the panel at a later date and notification was expected to happen in early June.