A war of words has erupted between Rotorua MP Todd McClay and Labour list MP Tāmati Coffey over a new report that reveals where the homeless in the city's motels have come from.
The Ministry of Social Development report, released at the Rotorua Lakes Council's Operations and Monitoring Committee on Thursday, revealed nearly a third of those in emergency housing were not from Rotorua.
National's McClay said he believed the report proved Rotorua had been the "dumping ground" for the nation's homelessness crisis since 2020 - an accusation he's repeatedly made against the Government.
He has also repeated his call on the Government to stop allowing out-of-towners into the city's emergency housing motels.
Now, Coffey has demanded McClay apologise for what Coffey believed were "relentless attacks" on the homeless which, in his opinion, fuelled hatred in the community.
McClay hit back saying, in his opinion, Coffey denying the city was being used was probably one of the reasons he was voted out as Waiariki MP at the last election.
The report showed that 778 clients (69 per cent) were living in the Rotorua district a month before entering emergency housing or had previously lived in the Rotorua district.
There were 208 clients (19 per cent) living in the region before entering emergency housing. The region is considered to include Tauranga, Taupō, Ōpōtiki, Kawerau and South Waikato.
The final 135 clients (12 per cent) came from other parts of New Zealand. Of those, 64 had whānau in Rotorua they had moved to be close to but had then ended up in emergency housing. Thirteen had returned to nearby areas but emergency housing there was unable to accommodate them so they moved to Rotorua.
Ten of the 135 moved to Rotorua for work opportunities, eight were passing through and were impacted by lockdowns, nine had left prison or rehab and two had grants made in error. Nine had friends in Rotorua they moved to be close to but ended up in emergency housing and 20 were unable to establish a link to Rotorua (which the report noted was not to say there was no link).
Coffey said McClay's claims the Government was using Rotorua as a "dumping ground" for the nation's homeless were, in his view, "baseless and wrong".
In his view: "Now we have this key data, Todd simply has to apologise for his relentless attacks on our homeless, who it turns out are 69 per cent local."
Coffey said with 12 per cent coming in from the rest of New Zealand, it was interesting half admitted moving here and living temporarily with whānau, before having to resort to emergency housing.
In Coffey's opinion: "[Todd's] relentless and personal attacks on them have fuelled the hatred that now exists among locals, towards those who have had to resort to emergency housing."
Coffey said now the numbers were in, it was time to focus on the real issue of community safety.
"That's where the community are rightly telling me to focus my efforts and that's what I'm doing."
In response, McClay said it was disappointing that, from his perspective, Coffey had decided to "play the man rather than the ball".
He said local people told him Rotorua had been harmed by the Labour Government and it was out of touch with the reality of what increased gangs and crime had done to the city.
"This report proves Rotorua continues to be used as a dumping ground for the country's homelessness problem."
McClay said, in his opinion: ''Tāmati's denial of this is probably one of the reasons he was the only Labour MP to lose his seat in the last election."
When asked if he would apologise as Coffey had demanded, McClay said it was the Labour Government that needed to apologise for what it had done to Rotorua.
The report is the first thorough breakdown of where Rotorua's homeless people have come from.
In April last year, the ministry released figures that showed 21 per cent of those living in Rotorua's emergency housing were not from the city.
The figures came from a sample survey that counted a third of those receiving emergency housing payments. The ministry said at the time the exact number of out-of-towners could not be counted because it was too time-consuming.
Council district development deputy chief executive John-Paul Gaston said in this week's meeting the report released this week stemmed from Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick writing letters to Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni.
Her letters expressed concern about the number of out-of-town homeless in Rotorua and the impact emergency housing in some motels was having on the city.