A Rotorua council candidate who suggested housing homeless people in a barn has been slammed by other candidates - including one who says in their view his comments are ''offensive'' and ''inhumane''.
John Rakei-Clark made the remarks at a Chamber of Commerce meet-the-candidates event on Wednesday night.
At the event Rakei-Clark said, in regards to the homeless issue, "let's make a change".
"Homeless. There's homeless and there's also family housing," he said.
"Homeless, let's stick 'em in a barn ... and let's get WINZ to pay for it."
He yesterday stood by his comments despite the criticism and said he was passionate about helping homeless people.
The idea of putting them in a barn was directed at rough sleepers and not "families who are spending three months finding accommodation", he told the Rotorua Daily Post yesterday.
"No one wants to see our people living on the streets, all I want is for them to have a bed.
"I think what we have got to do is come up with a marae-type solution for those homeless. We've got to get more accommodation so we have to give them somewhere to go because our businesses and tourists don't like it."
In the past year, Rakei-Clark said he had provided accommodation to homeless people who had stayed in a tent and a shed on his property and on his couch.
• Heartbreak motels: Millions spent to house Rotorua homeless
But fellow council candidate Kaya Sparke said, in her opinion, Rakei-Clark's comments were ''offensive'' and really ''de-humanised our homeless whanau''.
''I think he may have been saying it in a joking manner to be a little bit controversial or memorable but you can't take away from the fact it was offensive regardless of whether he meant it or not. It is definitely not a joking issue as we are seeing rising rates of homelessness in Rotorua.
''You would hope a council candidate would be taking that very seriously and coming up with solutions to help stem the issue rather than joking or being a bit silly about it.''
Love Soup co-manager Elmer Peiffer agreed with the premise of Rakei-Clark's comments but said the term ''barn'' was not the right word.
"There needs to be somewhere stable and safe for them to go but it doesn't just stop there. There needs to be support for those to get ahead as well."
Peiffer believed the Rotorua Lakes Council needed to work closely with the Government to find a solution.
Although she did not support the homeless living in the CBD, council candidate Linda Rowbotham said she did not agree with Rakei-Clark's comments either.
"I was gobsmacked, it's an odd thing to say. I know Tiny Deane is working through solutions and everything takes time.
"I don't support them being in the city but you can't just kick them out."
Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers candidate Reynold Macpherson said in his view Rakei-Clark's comments were ''exotic and I thought they were ridiculous''.
Salvation Army national director for accommodation Lynette Hutson said there was a lot of judgment and stigma around homeless people.
''They are our families, they belong in our communities and the reasons people become homeless are complex ... to stigmatise and to blame them shows a total lack of understanding of what might be causing the situation.''
Mayor Steve Chadwick also said in her opinion the comments were silly and inhumane.
"You have got to be careful if you are wanting to stand and lead the community, and you don't treat people in your community as a commodity."
Councillor Rob Kent said Rakei-Clark's remarks were from his perspective flippant.
''I believe we have to look at relocating the homeless out of the city CBD but not by putting them in a barn or something stupid.
"I mean obviously some sort of marae-type accommodation would be the most sensible with the appropriate social services to give these people the help they actually need.''
Ministry of Housing and Urban Development figures reported in the Rotorua Daily Post last month revealed the bill for Rotorua motels from April 2019 to June hit $3.36 million with 2410 emergency housing grants. This was up from $2.27m and 1852 emergency housing grants in the first quarter of the year.
Data also reveals over the same timeframes the state-house waiting list has jumped from 240 to 305 applicants with one social agency describing the housing crisis as an ''epidemic''.
The Ministry of Social Development would not comment on Rakei-Clark's comments.
'We don't take sides': Rotorua Chamber of Commerce
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce is sticking to its guns after a council candidates meeting on Wednesday night which resulted in a mayoral hopeful walking off the stage.
Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers candidate Reynold Macpherson took offence to a question whether the organisation supported the direction of the current council's 2030 vision.
Candidates, he said, had been asked in advance to indicate if they preferred continuing with prudent investment of ratepayers' money and debt financing of future growth, or retreating into debt deduction, cost-cutting and taking control.
Macpherson said he became angry when in his view it was suggested the latter approach was being championed by the Rotorua District Residents and Ratepayers.
The options to the answer were "yes", "no, I support the vision of the RDRR" and, "no".
''I immediately protested this gross simplification vilification ... I then withdrew from the charade to watch it unfold.''
He believed the chamber had taken sides.
But Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said the organisation was apolitical.
''All we wanted to do was to get the candidates to say where they stand on a spectrum of current issues. Do they stand here or there? It was simple.''
Heard said he had no idea why Macpherson took offence and ''if our views happen to coincide with one or another of the candidates that is a coincidence''.
''It does not mean we are ganging up with one candidate. It just means that is what we think. We do not take sides but we do say what we think is best for our members.''
- Additional reporting by Carmen Hall