Having a say on the future of emergency housing in Rotorua has got simpler after a resident lobby group challenged the Rotorua Lakes Council's process.
The Government is seeking sign-off on five-year consents allowing up to 1008 people at a time to stay across 12 Rotorua motels contracted for emergency housing.
Applications for resource consent, made by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, have been publicly notified and submissions are now open.
The original notices, published in the Rotorua Daily Post on Saturday, June 11, said anyone wanting to submit on some or all of the applications needed to fill out a separate submission for each. This meant submitters might have had to do 12 submissions.
Residents in the areas of the motels were also alerted about the process via a letter drop.
The process was questioned by Restore Rotorua members as being "unnecessarily difficult for the average Joe Citizen".
Last week council planning and development solutions manager Jason Ward said the 12 applications were for individual properties and must be dealt with individually, including notification and submissions.
Restore Rotorua took its complaint to independent commissioners appointed to hear the submissions, saying the process as outlined placed "an undue burden on lay submitters".
In a minute issued by chairwoman David Hill, he changed the process to make it easier for submitters.
"We acknowledge that, from an administrative point of view, separate submissions on each application would be preferred."
Hill said Restore Rotorua and submitters would be arguing cumulative effect issues that cut across the individual applications and therefore he said he would allow submitters to make one submission if they wished. Each submitter would need to identify the addresses of the application sites.
The council was directed to modify its website that gave instructions on how to make submissions.
Restore Rotorua chairman Trevor Newbrook said it was "another good win" for the members and their fight to be heard over the issue.
He said he didn't want the paperwork putting off residents from speaking up and he now encouraged them to make their submissions.
Ward told the Rotorua Daily Post this week changes about the submission process had been made on the council's website.
When asked by the Rotorua Daily Post if the council intended to republish newspaper notices and do a second letter drop updating the information for residents, Ward said there was no requirement to do that.
He said it would be clear when people went to the council website they could make a single submission if they wished but noted as stated by the panel in the minute that if people wanted to submit about specifics relating to specific sites it was preferred they made separate submissions.
This latest change follows Restore Rotorua's success in getting the applications publicly notified.
Restore Rotorua was formed after it was discovered the Boulevard Motel on Fenton St, which was bought by the Government for $8.1 million, was given a resource consent to operate as transitional housing for up to 80 homeless people without the public's knowledge.
Originally that decision was being left up to the independent commissioner but, following pressure from Restore Rotorua, the ministry decided to request the process be publicly notified - meaning locals were allowed to make submissions for or against.
Motels already operating under ministry contracts are unlawful as the district plan only consents them to have short-term visitors staying.
The resource consent applications aimed to remedy that situation, given emergency housing clients often stay for several months.
The council is taking action against motel operators not contracted by the Government that host emergency housing clients but have not sought proper consent.
The names of the motels seeking consent include RotoVegas Motel, Midway Motel, Malones Motel, Geneva Motor Lodge, Ascot on Fenton, Union Victoria Motel, Pohutu Lodge, Newcastle Motor Lodge, Lake Rotorua Hotel, Apollo Hotel, Alpin Motel and Ann's Volcanic Motel.
If all 12 motels get the go-ahead, they will be approved to have 1008 occupants in 301 motel units for up to five years.
Submissions close on Monday July 11 at 5pm.