There's no bigger issue in Rotorua right now than emergency housing and homelessness. Journalist Kelly Makiha takes a look at those it's impacting and details the past and the present.
Tonya Glen goes to bed at night and for the first time in a while, she feels safe.
She lives in contracted emergency housing at the Alpin Motel on Sala St with her 6-month-old baby.
The 27-year-old has had a tough time and has lived in emergency housing motels.
But for now, she's grateful the Government has stepped in and taken over some emergency housing motels to make life better for people like her.
It's not somewhere she wants to stay forever, but she says she feels safe because there is 24/7 security.
Glen has three children, but her older two live with their father in Tokoroa.
She had to leave her rental property in November last year and, with nowhere else to go, she and her then partner moved into a non-contracted emergency housing motel.
Pregnant, she became separated from her partner and needed somewhere else to live so was moved to Lake Rotorua Hotel - a contracted motel. But this wasn't ideal for the mum-to-be because it didn't have its own kitchen.
Now she is under the care of Visions of Helping Hand at Alpin Motel.
"Knowing that security is going to stop anything bad from happening is pretty good. Visions is helping me with a housing course and it takes six weeks and then they will help me into a house."
She described the vibe at Alpin Motel as "chill" and said everyone got along and helped each other.
She also liked the fact the rooms were drug tested before and after people moved in and out.
"I love it but not to the point where I want to stay forever."
With her experience staying in several different motels, Glen said there was truth in some of the things people heard.
"There are a lot of drug addicts and people who spend their money on P but people need to know what people's circumstances are before they judge. If you can get into a (contracted) motel, it's good."
She said the non-contracted motels she had stayed in were "shocking".
"It was full of violence, drugs and drinking."
She said she had found it hard to find a rental because of the stigma attached to having been in emergency housing.
She said the current system was helpful but it needed work and one thing she'd like to see was compulsory drug testing for those on benefits.
"I have a past, I'm not denying it but I think drug testing would really make some people think."
The other side of the story
They beg for money in the streets, fast food drive-throughs and public car parks.
Now, do they think it's okay to come to your door at night?
That's what Glenholme woman Tina Hinz is left wondering after a frightening incident - one of several she believes people staying in nearby emergency housing are responsible for.
It was just before 9pm on August 4 when Hinz was home alone and heard a loud bang on her window.
She went to her door and opened it, leaving the security door locked.
She saw the figure of a man and he demanded: "Give me some money", as he swayed unsteadily on his feet.
"I said 'get off my property'."
But he argued back, telling Hinz it was his right to take what he wanted.
He began to swear at her but she screamed at him to leave and told him she was calling the police.
She rang the Rotorua police station, instead of 111, and was put through to a "call centre" but was on hold for more than 26 minutes.
Police have since said she called police and made a report via the 105 online channel, which is a non-emergency service.
But the wait added to the trauma of what she had just been through.
She said she eventually made her report but police didn't attend.
"I couldn't see where he went because it was pitch black and I didn't sleep all night."
She said incidences among her neighbours were endless. An elderly couple in the neighbourhood had their freezer full of food cleaned out when they left their garage door open for a short period, another disabled man down the road had his electric scooter stolen and heaps of other neighbours have had their cars stolen, she said.
Hinz avoided going to town but driving along Fenton St made her sad and angry.
"People are lying around half dressed and just don't give a damn ... One of the things that angers me is the do-gooders who say they are struggling. A lot of us have had a hard life but we have worked hard and paid for what we have."
She said she felt there were too many people "milking" the emergency housing system.
"I'm a Rotorua kid and moved back for personal reasons and I regret it every single day."
Do you agree with the Government's emergency housing model?
I think they shouldn't be bringing them all here. There are other towns other than Rotorua. It needs to be policed better too... I feel sorry for a lot of the people in the Glenholme area because there are a lot of retired people in that area and it used to be a quiet area.
WENDY CHRISTIANSEN, Western Heights
No way. I opened a business 18 months ago and it would be nice to have the benefits of tourism again. I have noticed a massive change on Fenton St in just the last year. It used to be busy with visitors during the school holidays especially. I want to see it returned to normality but now it's done it feels like it will take a while. It's pretty rough up there.
QUENTIN MCINTOSH, Pukehangi
They are supposed to be helping our people get into homes. They need to be spending more money on building houses and other things too. Like if you want to rent a home, you have to pay a bond and homeless people can't afford that. People trying to get homes get judged if they've been in emergency housing.
DANI KAEMTA, Utuhina
No, I think it's terrible. I think it is a desperate solution to a long-term problem... The stigma that goes with those who have been or are in emergency housing, even if they are full-time workers, isn't fair.
CORINNE STRICKLAND, Mangakakahi
Answers to common questions
What are contracted emergency housing motels?
The Government, under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, has contracted 13 motels as part of a $30 million shake-up of Rotorua's emergency housing processes last year.
There are 250 households living in these motels including families with children.
There is wraparound support provided by organisations including Visions of a Helping Hand, Wera Aotearoa and Emerge Aotearoa and there is 24/7 security.
The ministry has contracted three motels as Covid-19 response motels - Emerald Spa Motel, Tuscany Villas and Four Canoes Hotel. These can cater for up to 350 people. It is not known how many households it caters to.
Covid-19 response contracts were set up to ensure people who were sleeping rough had a safe place to isolate during lockdown. The Government has committed to ensuring people do not need to return to homelessness and is funding the accommodation until longer-term options are found.
Emerald Spa, as of recently, is now contracted for emergency housing, not Covid-19 response.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has applied for resource consent for 13 of the 15 contracted motels (not including Four Canoes Hotel and Tuscany Villas) - one is on hold and another (Boulevard Motel) has already secured resource consent without public consultation.
All contracted motels are currently operating unlawfully as they do not have consent to offer longer-term accommodation. They are only consented for short-term visitor stays.
What are non-contracted motels?
There are estimated to be more than 40 non-contracted emergency housing motels in Rotorua catering for about 350 households.
Individuals can stay at these motels by applying through the Ministry of Social Development. The ministry pays these motels directly for each individual needing emergency housing.
Those needing help can seek it through the newly opened Te Pokapū The Hub.
There is no social service support or security at these motels.
Like contracted motels, these motels are also operating outside of the district plan.
The Rotorua Lakes Council has this year publicly taken a tough stance against these motels and informed owners they need to either engage in obtaining a resource consent or stop offering emergency housing. The council has warned these moteliers, failure to do so will result in court action.
Those staying in emergency housing - both contracted and non-contracted - are required to pay 25 per cent of their income towards their accommodation. The Government pays the rest.
What is transitional housing?
Transitional housing can be homes or motels - such as the newly opened 2six5 on Fenton, formerly the Boulevard Motel on Fenton St. It now caters for up to 70 people.
Transitional housing is designed to be more permanent housing than emergency housing with the aim of transitioning those staying into private rentals.
Like emergency housing, rent of up to 25 per cent of their income is paid with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development paying the rest.
Where have the homeless come from?
Nearly a third of people in Rotorua's emergency housing motels have come from out of town.
A Ministry of Social Development report presented to the Rotorua Lakes Council in May showed 778 clients (69 per cent) in emergency housing 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 and doesn't include Rotorua.
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).
Are we building more public houses?
Housing Minister Megan Woods was in Rotorua last week and said that since 2013 Rotorua had experienced a surge of 9000 people seeking homes while only issuing 1500 building consents.
She said there were now 300 public homes under construction in Rotorua, or being planned, and out of the Government's 10,000 additional public homes, 209 would be in Rotorua.
Some of the developments include 37 homes on the corner of Ranolf St and Malfroy Rd - six of which were ready for new families. There are a further 24 planned for stage two of that development.
Three new homes were finished on May Rd in July on an existing Kāinga Ora site and eight more homes soon open - five on Tania Cres, two at Toru St and one at Malfroy Rd.
There will be 42 new homes at Quartz Ave (formerly Collie Drive) and 24 apartments built on Pukuatua St at the site that was formerly the English Language School.
Between 50 and 60 houses will be built on vacant farmland on Ōwhata Rd. The type of housing hasn't yet been determined.
How much has been spent on emergency housing?
More than $10 million has been spent on emergency housing in Rotorua in the six months to March 2022.
There was $5,467,505 spent on emergency housing in Rotorua in the three months to March 2022 compared with $4,654,247 spent on emergency housing grants in the three months to December 2021.
This compares with $4,065,192 spent on emergency housing grants in Tauranga in the three months to March 2022 and $4,445,466 in the three months to December 2021.
What is happening with the resource consent applications?
Thirteen resource consent applications to allow contracted emergency housing for up to five years will be heard by three independent commissioners.
The hearing panel met on August 19 and convened a virtual pre-hearing conference with counsel and interested parties to discuss the order and predicted length of the hearing.
The panel directed the hearing will be split into two sessions. The first will focus on the overview and cumulative effects of the 13 applications and will run from Monday, October 17 to Friday, October 21.
The second session will focus on site-specific motel applications and concerns and will run for two days from Monday, October 31.
Wednesday, October 19 will be set aside for lobby group Restore Rotorua Inc and any
other submitter making legal submissions or producing expert evidence.
Hearing panel chairman David Hill said in his minute, that as all submissions would have been pre-read, the panel was likely to allow 15 minutes of speaking time.
However, he said submitters were strongly encouraged to group together for the purpose
of making joint presentations to avoid undue repetition – noting it could result in longer time allocations.
Rotorua's homeless history
2006 Census data shows Rotorua had 81 people sleeping rough, 84 people living in non-private accommodation and 444 people living in overcrowded dwellings.
2013 Love Soup starts feeding homeless at Kuirau Park.
2013 138 Rotorua individuals or families signalled they were homeless (Source: Rotorua Homeless Action Plan 2015-16).
2014 Rotorua District Council held forums to discuss growing homeless issue.
May 2018 More than 100 people marched in the Hikoi for the Homeless to Rotorua Lakes Council to ask for a night shelter.
June 2018 Tiny Deane from Visions of a Helping Hand Trust sets up night shelter on Eruera St. It closes soon after because of compliance issues.
August 2018 Visions opens night shelter in Pukuatua St. Local retailers, publican and shoppers complain in local media about threatening, violent and intimidating behaviour.
February 2020 Kuirau Park becomes the day-time hang out spot for night shelter homeless, rough sleepers and those in nearby emergency housing.
March 2020 Covid-19 lockdown. All rough sleepers and those in the night shelter are moved to motels to isolate safely.
January 2021 More than 1000-signature petition presented to mayor Steve Chadwick by Meredith Herbert asking to address the growing concerns of homelessness.
January-Feb 2021 Tiny Deane reveals plans to turn Base Backpackers and Lava Bar into a homeless and medical centre. Backlash from nearby schools and residents. Online petition objecting attracts 3600 signatures.
March 2021 Lava Bar and Base Backpackers plans dropped.
March 2021 Rotorua MP Todd McClay says Rotorua has become a dumping ground for homeless. Glenholme locals complain of increased crime. Ministry of Social Development says they are not actively bringing out-of-towners to Rotorua.
March 15, 2021 Hundreds attend public meeting in Glenholme to air concerns about impacts of emergency housing.
April 1, 2021 Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern tells the Rotorua Daily Post in an interview the Government isn't sending out-of-town homeless to Rotorua and we need to not focus on where they have come from but instead stop the demand and make sure they have housing. Rotorua-based list MP Tāmati Coffey describes the perception there are lots of out-of-towners in Rotorua's emergency housing as "anecdata" and it was a "convenient narrative".
April 30, 2021 Rotorua Daily Post reveals local lawyer Kevin Badcock's legal paper says putting people in emergency housing for longer than 28 days in some Rotorua motels is breaching the city's district plan.
June 2021 Government announces $30 million emergency housing shake up to contract motels with wraparound support and security, grouping cohorts together. Housing hub to be established.
June 2021 Government buys vacant 2ha block on the corner of Malfroy Rd and Ranolf St to build 37 new homes.
July 2021 Government buys Boulevard Motel for $8.1m.
August 12, 2021 Rotorua Daily Post reveals Government plans to turn Wylie Court into transitional housing.
August 18, 2021 Wylie Court plans abandoned as Kāinga Ora couldn't reach an agreement with the property owners.
September 2021 Rotorua Daily Post reveals Rotorua Lakes Council approved resource consent for Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to turn Boulevard Motel into transitional housing.
September 2021 Resident Jenny Peace gathers 1900 signatures calling for council transparency over homeless motels resource consent applications.
October 2021 Restore Rotorua Inc is launched, a lobby group fighting for changes over homeless crisis.
November 28, 2021 Rotorua Daily Post reveals 15 Rotorua motels were each paid more than $1m for emergency housing over two years.
March 2022 Letters revealed under the Official Information Act from Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick to Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni show the local council's frustration over some emergency housing in motels. The letters said the community was suffering due to drug use, violent behaviour, vandalism and other anti-social behaviours near the motels.
March 30, 2022 Rotorua Daily Post reveals Government has spent more than $4.6m buying two more pieces of land to provide up to 80 houses for the homeless. They are at the former English Language Academy site on Pukuatua St and vacant land on Ōwhata Rd.
April 5, 2022 Housing Minister Megan Woods says she is reviewing its public housing criteria for Rotorua after an outcry from locals who learned out-of-town homeless could be housed in new Kāinga Ora homes.
April 16, 2022 Rotorua Daily Post reveals a secret council proposal to turn 10 Rotorua reserves into housing.
May 5, 2022 A Ministry of Social Development report presented to the Rotorua Lakes Council reveals nearly a third of people in Rotorua's emergency housing motels have come from out of town.
June 2022 Submissions sought seeking sign-off on five-year consents allowing up to 1008 people at a time to stay across 12 Rotorua motels contracted for emergency housing.
July 15, 2022 Rotorua Daily Post reveals social service provider Lifewise takes over the Four Canoes Hotel contract but moves its staff off-site because of health and safety issues.
August 5, 2022 Rotorua Daily Post reports 3656 submissions - 80 per cent opposed - were received from people over the 12 resource consent applications to allow motels to be contracted to the Government for up to five years.
August 11, 2022 Government adds Emerald Spa to the list of motels it wants to contract for emergency housing for the next five years - taking the total to 13.
August 13, 2022 Rotorua Daily Post reports up to 70 people will move into new transitional housing accommodation in the coming weeks on Fenton St at the site that was formerly the Boulevard Motel. The new "village" is renamed 2six5 on Fenton.
August 25, 2022 Outgoing Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick uses casting vote to approve a proposal to reclassify seven reserve sites so they can be sold and developed.
August 25, 2022 Housing Minister Megan Woods in Rotorua to see six new homes on the corner of Malfroy Rd and Ranolf St that will go to families in Rotorua's emergency housing motels. Confirms she isn't committing to a policy change discussed in April over who can get the houses.
August 31, 2022 Rotorua Daily Post reveals Rotorua Lakes Council issued Four Canoes Hotel with a Dangerous Building Notice and a Notice To Fix on August 8.