Rotorua is a tourism city and Tauranga also attracts thousands of visitors each year.
Like it or loathe it, a lot of this region's reputation nationally and globally is based around being a tourism mecca offering cultural experiences, adventure-based tourism, unique and stunning scenery, beautiful beaches and geothermal activity.
But underneath this glossy surface, we have a major homeless problem.
I understand rising rents combined with the growing population, strong property market and lack of state homes are contributing to the housing crisis. But why is the number of homeless people rising?
In many parts of the Rotorua and Tauranga central business districts and in various parks, it seems increasing numbers of homeless people are congregating, setting up temporary sleeping and living spots or just milling about.
This, in my view, can be unsightly and I suspect locals and visitors feel wary at times.
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The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has identified Rotorua as one of six homeless "hotspots" and the homelessness issue has been heavily covered in both the Bay of Plenty Times and Rotorua Daily Post.
In Tauranga, Street Kai co-ordinator Tracey Carlton says that "according to statistics from Tauranga City Council the homeless community in the city has grown from 407 in the winter of 2017 to 700 last month." https://www.nzherald.co.nz/premium/news/article.cfm?c_id=1504669&objectid=12286653
In Rotorua, Tiny Deane is trying to address the problem and his efforts impress me.
Caroline Fleming's article "New one-stop shop set to open for Rotorua's homeless people" on January 31, outlined the new initiatives set up by Deane and his advocacy trust, Visions of a Helping Hand.
This venture, called Mana Aroha Whare, means homeless people can access free appointments with a doctor, fresh clothing, laundry services, haircuts and showers at a location two doors from his established homeless night shelter on Pukuatua St.
Mana Aroha Whare aims to uplift homeless people so they feel more empowered and have the confidence to begin a new, more settled direction. Many homeless people will help with tasks such as washing and managing donated clothing at the shelter.
Deane has also arranged it so several local accommodation providers will pay homeless people to do laundry duties for their accommodations and daily linen.
But not everyone is happy in Rotorua and it is easy to see why some locals are frustrated with the plan. The impact of homeless people on Rotorua's central city streets and open spaces affects businesses and the public. Deane would happily move the shelter out of the CBD - if he had another location for it. But where do we put such a shelter?
Kelly Makiha's excellent coverage of homeless people congregating in Rotorua's Kuirau Park continues to highlight the stress felt by many in the city at our rising homeless numbers. This stress is accompanied by helplessness as the problem continues to rise without any feasible solutions in sight.
Kuirau Park has become a day-time hangout for the homeless, those living in emergency housing and rough sleepers who have been moved on from the CBD.
Tiny Deane was responsible for moving the group to Kuirau Park to help alleviate growing issues in the CBD.
"To be honest, I didn't know what I was creating (moving them to Kuirau Park)."
Deane is also worried about where our city is heading and agrees we need a community-based plan.
Tauranga seems to be looking at a similar response as Rotorua. Tracey Carlton says her organisation is looking for a building to set up a wellbeing community hub for people to eat, shower, rest, talk and support each other.
The efforts by Deane, Tracey Carlton and their organisations are all commendable first steps but I believe to really solve the problem homeless people need to be made more accountable.
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Are some people choosing to be homeless? Is a life on the streets easier than paying rent, finding a job, working hard and having responsibilities?
We need to try and educate homeless people to move forward by placing expectations on what we expect of them in return for free shelter, health care, food and hygiene - just like Tiny Deane has started doing in Rotorua.
But we need to go further than what Deane is doing. In my opinion, we need to monitor welfare benefits so that money collected each week is allocated to rent or shelter, food and utilities instead of being spent on other items, including cigarettes, drugs and alcohol.
If we expect our homeless community to work for handouts then we are teaching them the importance and value of self-worth rather than continuing to offer sticking-plaster solutions.
I would like to see homeless people being able to learn life skills through programmes that actually get them off the streets – not help keep them there.
This street homeless problem is getting bigger and it is time for significant investment from councils and central government to fund such programmes and put a structure in place where accountability is a major part of the solution.
Importantly, we need to put more resources into helping those homeless people with mental health and addiction issues, so we can give them targeted support and ultimately get them off the streets.
Otherwise, I fear that as cities we will simply grow the homeless problem by making it too easy for people to take to the streets.
The Labour Government has allocated $300m to get homeless out of motels, announcing as of February 13 that this funding package aims to reduce the use of motels as emergency accommodation. The rest of the funding will be aimed at reducing homeless numbers by offering more access to budgeting, mental health and welfare support services to support those already in housing to be able to keep their rentals.
That's great - but how is this helping the homeless people we see on the streets?
The time for big-thinking change is now. Not 10 years down the track.