Households in some emergency housing motels in Rotorua could be looking for somewhere else to live after the council filed legal action against nine motels.
The action is being seen as necessary because of what is being described as the "misery" unmanaged emergency housing is causing the city's residents and reputation.
Rotorua Lakes Council has confirmed it has lodged court action in the Environment Court against nine motels for failing to comply with regulatory requirements that allow them to operate as emergency housing.
The council will not disclose the names of the motels. There are 350 households receiving emergency housing support in all non-contracted motels.
It is the tough stance some locals have been seeking for months after concerns around the behaviour of some people who have been staying in the motels, particularly around the Fenton St and Glenholme areas.
At the end of April, the council released information about its recent work to contact Rotorua motels and warn them of their requirements to get resource consent to legally operate as emergency housing facilities.
Under the District Plan, motels on main roads into Rotorua are only allowed to have visitors staying on a temporary basis as they are designed to cater for the visitor industry.
However, some emergency housing clients have been staying in the motels much longer, meaning the practice doesn't comply with the District Plan.
In a $30m shake-up of Rotorua's emergency housing processes last year, the Government contracted 14 motels in Rotorua, many hand-picked as being more appropriate for families. There are 250 households in those motels.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, which is taking control of the contracted motels, has applied to the council for resource consent to legally operate 13 of them. These consent applications are yet to be heard but in the meantime the motels are operating with emergency housing clients. Resource consent had already been granted for one of the contracted motels.
Outside of the contracted motels, there are more than 20 others offering emergency housing on a direct basis via the Ministry of Social Development.
Anyone needing an urgent roof over their heads can apply for emergency housing via the Ministry of Social Development, which then pays motels directly.
It is these motels that the council is targeting.
Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston said the council had now filed court documents seeking an enforcement order on nine motels it had previously been in contact with.
"The matter is now in the hands of the courts."
Gaston said the remaining motels providing non-contracted emergency housing would receive an initial invitation to engage with the council during the next two weeks.
They would be told if they want to continue providing emergency housing they would need to be compliant with the relevant regulations and requirements, Gaston said.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick expressed her concern about the non-government contracted motels in letters to Social Development and Employment Minister Carmel Sepuloni at the end of last year and the beginning of this year.
In the letters, she said the community was suffering due to drug use, violent behaviour, vandalism and other anti-social behaviours near the motels and there was a perception that those living in emergency accommodation were "destroying our city and its reputation".
Chadwick said taking legal action was "always a last resort".
She said the council had been working with the Government to get an end-to-end support system in place for people needing emergency accommodation and that was now in place.
"The council organisation also has an obligation to ensure people are in accommodation that is safe and fit-for-purpose."
Tania Tapsell, who chairs the council's operations and monitoring committee, said these motels had caused serious issues for residents and Rotorua's reputation.
"The misery of unmanaged emergency housing needs to stop."
However, she said it was disappointing that resolving the issue of the Government's emergency housing system would "once again" come at a cost to local ratepayers.
"The message is clear now, if motels won't use their facilities appropriately we'll take them to court."
The council's work to clamp down on the moteliers had initially been discussed in the council's confidential section of its meetings because it was seeking councillors' guidance over legal proceedings.
However, it was moved to the public section of the meeting in April.
Gaston said at the time in a press release that it was an appropriate time for operators to decide which business they wanted to be - emergency housing or tourism - given borders were due to reopen.
The work moteliers might need to do to get consented included complying with regulations to ensure safe and appropriate facilities.
Gaston said at the time a staged approach was being taken with the motels to lessen the impacts.
Ministry of Social Development Bay of Plenty regional commissioner Mike Bryant said they were "happy" to work through issues with the council as required and had a "good relationship" with them.
He previously confirmed there were 350 households in non-contracted motels getting emergency housing.
The ministry was approached for comment.
Bryant previously said clients' welfare was their top priority but the motels were private businesses, meaning any steps to comply with council regulations would be for them to take.
The ministry was encouraging the motels to engage with the council.
He said they had hoped to work with the council to avoid a situation where enforcement action led to people having to leave emergency housing, and if that happened the ministry would do its best to move them elsewhere in Rotorua.
A family with several children counted as a household, as well as a single person living alone.
A Ministry of Social Development report presented to the council's operations and monitoring committee this month revealed for the first time where people had been living before needing emergency housing in Rotorua in 2021.
It showed just under a third were from outside of Rotorua.
A total of 778 clients (69 per cent) were living in the Rotorua district a month before entering emergency housing or had previously lived in the Rotorua district but 31 per cent came from other areas.
Out of the 31 per cent, 19 per cent (208 people) came from areas in the region including Tauranga, Taupō, Ōpōtiki, Kawerau and South Waikato and 12 per cent (135 people) came from other parts of New Zealand.