Having grown up in Rotorua and lived here for most of my life, I am very passionate about our place and am committed to our community.
While there is no denying the challenges we're navigating, there is a way forward and I intend to lead us this way, onwards and upwards.
We are all lucky to live in such close proximity to our beautiful and unique natural features, within a diverse and welcoming community, and somewhere that people from all over the world travel to see. I am always proud to call Rotorua home.
Unfortunately, we were hit with a double blow in the past two years when our tourism industry ended abruptly due to border closures, and then our motels were used inappropriately as emergency housing. The use of Rotorua motels for this has had a significant and serious impact on our community. There is no doubt that it is time for this to end.
Other destination cities around New Zealand have shown signs of recovery and it's difficult to ignore the underperformance of our own visitor economy.
Last month, RotoruaNZ released a report detailing the wider economic impact that negative perceptions linked to emergency housing are having on Rotorua's tourism industry. It was sobering to read this report and finally have confirmation of what Rotorua already knew and felt.
In three months we missed out on a potential $17 million, and these losses will keep increasing.
On the Government's current five-year timeline to resolve emergency housing issues in Rotorua, our visitor economy stands to lose in excess of half a billion dollars if this isn't stopped.
People have built their lives here and businesses have worked hard over many generations to make Rotorua one of the top tourism destinations in New Zealand.
It is heartbreaking to see an increasing number of people worried about their safety while visiting Rotorua, and it is heartbreaking to hear about residents feeling unsafe in their homes.
As the new mayor of Rotorua, I am committed and driven to find solutions to the issues we face. This election we had seven new councillors elected to the Rotorua Lakes Council, this reflected the change our community wanted to see.
We have a group of very passionate new councillors who have strong connections and relationships with a diverse range of our community. Together, we look forward to making the positive change and progress Rotorua desperately needs.
Within days of taking office, I met with Housing Minister Megan Woods, and the council and Government, alongside Te Arawa, are now working towards an accord to end emergency housing in motels in Rotorua.
The solutions I am advocating for are an urgent exit plan from emergency housing motels in Rotorua, community safety through better resourcing of police in Rotorua, and long-term housing and growth solutions.
An urgent exit plan from the inappropriate use of our visitor motels is essential and I want this in place by the end of the year, especially a plan to end the mixed-use of motels.
Housing people in motels is in breach of our district plan. The buildings are consented for short-term tourism accommodation only, with longer-term tenancies posing both safety and social issues.
The social cost of emergency housing has been immeasurably significant. It is not acceptable for social housing solutions to negatively impact nearby residents or the livelihoods of local businesses.
I have met with our police district commander and I am urging the Government to provide greater police resourcing to help deal with crime in these areas.
Everybody does deserve a safe place to live and we know our housing shortage is a contributor to the issues we face.
While the council doesn't have the ability or mandate to build housing ourselves, we do play an important enabling role.
So we will continue working hard to support more housing options and development and to fast-track and enable more appropriate social housing where we can.
To plan well for and stimulate future growth we will also be looking at a commercial and industrial plan change to create more space for business development and job creation within a year.
There has been a lot of media focus on the negative issues in Rotorua and it's important that we as locals are not adding to the downward spiral of our local reputation.
Rotorua is still an amazing place to live and visit. Every day, people have wonderful experiences and interactions here. I am committed to ensuring that these are the stories Rotorua is known for.
Alongside our new council, I look forward to sharing the real and meaningful progress we make in our housing space, restoring our reputation and contributing to a better Rotorua.