Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick says residents can't keep saying "not in my backyard" as the city looks to solve its housing crisis.
The Rotorua Lakes Council has two resource consent applications before it relating to turning motels or vacant land into housing for the homeless.
The Rotorua Daily Post asked the council how many land-use change applications it had received for motels or vacant land on Fenton St, Lake Rd and Fairy Springs Rd that could potentially be used for transitional or emergency housing.
The council would not confirm the exact locations, citing privacy reasons relating to those staying in the motels who might be in a vulnerable or exposed situation. However, it confirmed two applications were currently being considered, one had been granted and another had been abandoned.
Transitional housing is temporary accommodation and support for those in urgent need of housing. Emergency housing is a one-off grant to provide housing for seven days. Often the grants are rolled over if those in emergency housing stay for longer periods.
Long-term emergency and transitional housing are not permitted under the District Plan in motels on main routes as those premises are only permitted to have short-term visitor accommodation. To make them comply, a land-use change is needed.
Government agency Kāinga Ora had applied for a land-use change to turn Fenton St's Wylie Court into transitional housing but the deal fell through last month after an agreement couldn't be reached with the property owners.
The council has already approved a resource consent land-use change for the Boulevard Motel on Fenton St to have transitional housing, a process which was not publicly notified.
Chadwick said in a written statement via the council's communications team that she remained adamant motels were not a long-term solution to social housing shortages.
"We need and want more houses – of all types – and that's what we're working on but we need solutions for the interim, now."
She said politicians were not - and should not - be involved in the consenting process as it was a regulatory, not political, process with decisions based on what's in the District Plan and legislation.
"What I'm concerned and disappointed about is the growing call from residents to not allow certain types or perceived types of people in their neighbourhoods.
"We all accept there is a need for housing, including social housing, and we can't keep saying 'but not in my backyard', especially without understanding what these types of developments can actually look like and how they would be managed."
Rotorua needs 1700 homes, including transitional and public housing.
The council had previously said Fenton St had been approved as a future area for residential development with the view of moving tourist accommodation to the inner city as part of the 2018 Spatial Plan.
Some Glenholme locals have been vocal in their opposition to more housing options on Fenton St, saying it should be kept for tourists and restored as the gateway to Rotorua.
They have also expressed concerns relating to crime, rubbish, vandalism and behaviour since emergency housing clients were put in Fenton St motels.
Resident Jenny Peace, who has collected more than 1900 online signatures in a petition calling for council transparency over consenting changes for Fenton St, said she felt the council wasn't listening to residents.
She said "everything seems to be hidden from us" despite Rotorua residents sending a clear message they weren't happy with the direction the city was heading in terms of homelessness.
She said Fenton St should be protected as the gateway to Rotorua and residents who lived nearby were stakeholders.
She said although no one objected to the 2018 Spatial Plan approving residential housing for Fenton St, that was before locals knew the impact of having hundreds of emergency housing clients living nearby would have on local residents.
Rotorua mayoral hopeful and former MP Fletcher Tabuteau said Rotorua was at a crossroads and now was the time to take a principled stand.
He said Rotorua and its leaders needed to ask what now for transitional housing and homelessness solutions but said Fenton St should not become the epicentre for transitional housing.
"It might be an easy solution for central government bureaucrats, but it is not a solution that works for anyone in Rotorua. Not only is developing a potential cluster like this bad for the very people we want to be helping, it has already been incredibly destructive to the local residents."
He said common sense showed "more of the same" would lead to more destruction of lives, both in those tightly packed rooms and in the homes surrounding them.
He said Rotorua would be a tourism mecca again but what was needed were more high-end hotels for high-value tourists and high-end apartments for locals looking to be closer to the centre of the city.
Rotorua lawyer Kevin Badcock, who initially publicly raised the resource consent issue of having emergency housing in motels on main routes for long periods, said he was concerned the council was continuing to process applications to look at allowing transitional housing given the public's feelings.
He said, in his view, the council was continuing against the tide.
The council had not yet decided if the two current applications would be publicly notified.
Council district development deputy chief executive Jean-Paul Gaston said the council had always said that using motels as emergency housing was not a long-term solution and that remained the case.
Gaston said more housing, of all types, was a key priority it was working to deliver with "absolute urgency" but that wasn't going to happen overnight.
"We have a significant number of people, a large number of those being families, who cannot find a home because our city simply does not have enough."
He said the work the council, Government and Te Arawa was doing was about ensuring those people had a roof over their heads in suitable accommodation that was secure and well-managed with the support they needed.
"There are 12 motels contracted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development to provide that service. Those motels are distributed across the city rather than all in one place, and council has always said that those motels would be fully assessed against the District Plan."