A Rotorua motelier is warning his colleagues to be on the lookout for potential scammers trying to fraudulently claim money through the emergency housing scheme.
The motelier says he's been approached four times by members of the public asking him to falsify emergency housing forms in return for going halves in money paid out by the Government.
Millions of dollars are being poured into housing the city's homeless in Rotorua - funding which has been stepped up since the city's homeless shelter officially closed in March, resulting in at-risk and vulnerable people being moved into motels.
The Ministry of Social Development has told the Rotorua Daily Post it's not aware of any incidences of fraud in Rotorua but asked people with information to contact it as soon as possible.
It also warned it had staff employed to "actively" stamp out those trying to rip off the system.
The motelier, who manages a Rotorua motel but didn't want to be identified, said he was concerned those trying to flout the law would try to approach other moteliers.
He said four different people had approached him this year asking if he would sign them off as staying in his motel, when in fact they had elsewhere to stay.
"Some of the Winz clients come to me and ask me that and I say 'no'. Many say to me you'll be surprised how often it's happening."
He said the offers were coming from people who had told the ministry they were homeless, when in fact they had somewhere to stay, such as with a partner or another family member.
"They are just trying to abuse the system and take more money. There's no one checking they are staying there and they are just abusing the system."
The motelier said those in the industry were hard workers but they were now faced with tough times as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the drop-off of visitors.
"That money is not there for people who abuse the system or those who contribute nothing to society."
The motelier said he didn't go to the police as he didn't think they could do anything with his information.
Ministry of Social Development housing general manager Karen Hocking said the ministry "took very seriously its responsibility in administering government expenditure" to provide services and ensure fairness for all New Zealanders.
"Most people are honest and are entitled to the benefit assistance they receive. Deliberate fraud of the welfare system is completely unacceptable."
She said the ministry had dedicated staff "actively seeking to prevent, detect and reduce" incidences of fraud.
The ministry was not aware of instances in Rotorua of anyone attempting to defraud the system in this way but she encouraged anyone who was concerned that someone was committing fraud to get in touch.
Rotorua MP Todd McClay said local taxpayers would be appalled if such a scam was happening and the ministry should take the allegations seriously.
"Whenever the Government throws cash around without having an actual solution there will always be people looking to profit. If this is happening, it's illegal and I would expect the Government to get on top of it quickly. They owe it to the hard-working taxpayer."
Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey said the thought of people trying to make a quick buck out of the genuine housing needs of our community during the pandemic was "deeply disturbing".
"It's not even opportunistic, it's just highly disappointing and not reflective of Rotorua's true community spirit."
He said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had made "be kind" part of the Covid-19 response that had set New Zealand apart from the world.
"Rotorua iwi, council and our community have been landmark examples of that compassion, showing in our nation's brightest and darkest moments, we are the home of manaakitanga.
"It is my hope that spirit prevails and anyone who knows anything about this con-job or others like it, report it to our Māori Wardens or MSD, so that it doesn't damage the chances of real whānau in need getting a helping hand in future."
New Zealand First deputy leader and Rotorua-based list MP Fletcher Tabuteau said he didn't want to comment.
"I hope he kept names and went to the police."
Visions of a Helping Hand Trust closed the inner-city men's night shelter and the women and children's shelter on Tarewa Rd when the country went into level 4 lockdown in March as communal living wasn't allowed.
Tiny Deane, who runs the trust, now runs his service out of two motels on Fenton St - Tuscany Villas and the Emerald Spa Resort - said he hadn't been approached by anyone offering the scam and hadn't heard of any others being approached either.
"That would be pretty fraudulent and I haven't heard of that ever."
Rotorua Motel Association chairman Mike Gallagher couldn't be contacted for comment.
In the year to March this year, more than $16m has been spent on 11,400 emergency housing grants in Rotorua.
Those wanting to report fraud can contact the Ministry of Social Development online or on the phone. Any contact can be made anonymous and all steps would be taken to protect privacy.