A Fenton St hotel used by the Government to house homeless people for more than two years has been issued with a Dangerous Building Notice and a Notice To Fix.
The notices relate to the Four Canoes Hotel, which is home to more than 30 people, some of whom have high-needs drug addictions and mental health issues.
The notices were issued on August 8, the Rotorua Lakes Council and the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development confirmed yesterday following questions from the Rotorua Daily Post.
The ministry said it did not consider the hotel unsafe for people to be living there and that the building owner had been working with the council around fire safety issues, with improvements already made.
There was a fire in one of the rooms in December last year.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay has called on the Government to do an urgent inquiry into the Four Canoes contract.
The hotel is contracted to the ministry under the Covid-19 response. Homeless people sleeping rough were put into the hotel in March 2020 so they could isolate.
The Government has committed to ensuring people would not need to return to homelessness and is funding the accommodation until longer-term options are found.
The Four Canoes, along with all other motels in Rotorua offering emergency housing, does not have the proper resource consent to operate as housing, as it only has consent for short-term visitor accommodation.
Concerns about the state of the hotel were raised by social service provider Lifewise when it took over a service contract from Te Taumata o Ngāti Whakaue Iho Ake Trust last month.
Soon after, Lifewise removed its staff from the site for health and safety reasons after a client had a psychotic episode.
The Rotorua Daily Post Weekend reported on Saturday there were plans to move those people living at the hotel to somewhere more appropriate.
The newspaper also asked the council and the ministry a number of questions about the suitability of the hotel to house the clients there. Neither mentioned the council had issued notices under the Building Act.
Council community wellbeing deputy chief executive Anaru Pewhairangi confirmed in a statement yesterday the notices were issued and the owner was proposing remediation/mitigation, which the council was working through with them.
In response to questions about why the notices were not mentioned earlier, he said: "This is a regulatory matter and we do not deal with regulatory matters through the media. As is appropriate, we will continue to work through the process with the building owner."
The Rotorua Daily Post asked the council if should have pushed the hotel owner and the ministry to get proper resource consent when it started using the hotel for this purpose in 2020.
Pewhairangi said as the council had previously stated, it was taking a "staged approach" and all premises needing resource consent would be required to get one.
Ministry partnerships and performance general manager William Barris said the ministry did not consider the building unsafe for those living there.
"The issues identified have not compromised the care and support of clients living at Four Canoes.
"At all times [the ministry] is working with the owner, council and providers to ensure a high level of security and safety for clients and staff working there – their safety is always a priority."
Barris said the building owner had been working with the council on the technical fire safety issues raised and had made improvements already.
He said the ministry and the council were monitoring them closely to ensure requirements were met as soon as practicable. He noted responsibility to fix the issues lay with the owner.
He said client, provider and community wellbeing were a priority at Four Canoes and other emergency housing motels.
"We also acknowledge the concerns of the community, and this is why work is under way to explore alternative accommodation options."
He said the ministry, Lifewise and other agencies had been working on this recently to ensure better access to services needed by the clients. He said 15 clients had already been placed into other accommodation.
McClay said he believed Housing Minister Megan Woods needed to front up and the Government needed to do an urgent inquiry into what it had known about the state of the hotel.
He said in his opinion: "If something happens to one of those people [residents], it will be on Megan Woods' head.
"The council needs to tell us what action they have taken and the Government needs to act urgently and stop taking Rotorua for granted and using us as a dumping ground [for homeless people].
Woods responded by saying the safety of people in Government motels was of the "utmost importance" and she was seeking reassurances if there were other motels with similar concerns.
"Just for clarity, the Four Canoes has been issued with a notification that it needs to make improvements to the fire prevention systems on-site.
"It gives the owner a notice period to make improvements."
The Rotorua Daily Post attempted to contact the directors of the company that owns the hotel.