Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the Government isn't sending out-of-town homeless people to Rotorua to live in emergency housing.
In an interview with the Rotorua Daily Post during her visit to the city yesterday, she said she understood the city's problems, but suggestions it was the Government purposely bringing homeless people to the city to stay in motels were wrong.
"If they are, it is certainly not through anything the Government is doing directly. We are not telling people to come here, we are not bussing people here. None of that is happening."
Ardern said she hadn't heard if there was a single issue causing the influx of homeless people to Rotorua, but said she believed those coming from out-of-town had some kind of local connection.
"I do think people in part may be connected, they may have family and have come home."
When told that at a recent public meeting about the issue, residents overwhelmingly wanted the Government lobbied to stop the number of out-of-towners coming to Rotorua for emergency housing, she said that was based an assumption people had no connection to Rotorua.
"We haven't seen anything to suggest that."
Ardern asked Labour's Rotorua-based list MP Tāmati Coffey to address the question as he was on the ground.
Coffey described it as "almost anecdata" - which was evidence that was based on personal experience or observation rather than systematic research or analysis.
"People saying they have met someone who wasn't from here and was on a bus from Auckland. It's those kind of stories that are around but no hard data to back it up.
"It's a convenient narrative for locals to think it's others and outsiders coming into Rotorua but actually they are ours. Even when we did the homeless street count, that was a couple of years ago though, again there was a perception they were coming from out of town but they were our own."
Ardern said the concern told them there was a problem to fix around a lack of houses.
"I think focusing so much on where are the people coming from and how we can stop the demand, actually we need to make sure they have housing."
Housing Minister Megan Woods said she had directed officials from across different Government departments to come to Rotorua to start working intensively with iwi and the Rotorua Lakes Council to find "solid solutions" for the short term.
She said they were here in Rotorua last week, this week and next week but couldn't give more details until after next week.
The Rotorua Daily Post asked Ardern if she would spend time on Fenton St - where many of the emergency housing motels were - with police or security to witness first-hand some of the issues locals were facing.
Ardern said she had people on the ground telling her of the issues.
"Even when I'm not here, I hear from Tāmati and mayor Chadwick the issues and that is why we have had officials on the ground from last week as well.
"No one for a moment is questioning for a fact that this region has been hit hard in the last year. No question. There are multiple things going on all at once that are compounding and making it very difficult."
She said the Government was also focussing on bringing back visitors which would help businesses hit hard from Covid-19.
"It will bring our guests back into the places where people are so used to hosting and welcoming."
She said one of the biggest issues was the supply of houses in Rotorua.
"We have not seen houses built here at the rate that's required. We have had low consenting rates through the council. That doesn't say anything about the council, it just shows what the pipeline looks like."
Therefore she said the Government needed to create an environment where houses were being built which would fix all those issues.
She said Rotorua and Tairāwhiti were two areas being looked at when developing its housing package announced last week to make sure what they were developing would help those areas.