For 35 years national and international visitors have stayed at the Backyard Inn on Tarewa Rd. Now it's used to house those who can't find a home - and the locals aren't happy. Journalist Kelly Makiha talks to those on both sides of the argument.
A previously thriving accommodation outlet on Tarewa Rd is now being used by people struggling to get housing.
However, Tarewa Rd residents say people living there need to behave or move out.
And a district councillor who lives in the area is warning the new arrivals they are welcome but "don't bring your sh**ty behaviour" with you.
The residents are banding together to speak out after enduring weeks of what they say is an increase in crime and intimidation.
They say they are so desperate to get their "street back", they are extending an offer to formally welcome them into the neighbourhood the Māori way in an attempt make them feel more responsible for their actions.
But the owner of the accommodation outlet where most of them are staying, Backyard Inn, said they had ironed out some initial teething issues and they believed it had improved recently.
The owner said they were proud the business had changed tack since no longer been able to host international visitors and they were now pleased to be helping struggling residents of Rotorua with housing.
Tarewa Rd resident and Rotorua district councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said two public hui were held because of concerns around behaviour.
"They obviously have housing needs but behavioural problems are starting to surface.
Residents are reporting an increase in petty burglaries and outside theft and the police are now seen regularly in the street, particularly at the Backyard Inn."
She said residents wanted to ensure the Government and business owners knew of their concerns.
"They have a responsibility to ensure the safety of the neighbourhood will not be compromised by their new tenants. You can't just take the Crown's money and think that's the end of it. It's just the start."
She said there were two childcare centres, the Aquatic Centre, Taharangi Marae and homes with young children and older residents in the street.
"The area is significant to Ngāti Tuara and Ngāti Kearu. We will not allow mana whenua to be trampled on. The community response is merely being proactive. We welcome everyone to our street but don't bring sh**ty behaviour with you. Behave or move on."
Aroha Bray, who has co-ordinated two public meetings and also works for the police as the burglary prevention co-ordinator, is a Tarewa Rd resident whose family owns six properties on the street.
She said she had noticed in the last couple of months lots of people walking around she didn't know.
She said her 84-year-old uncle who lived on Tarewa Rd had two break-ins - a barbecue taken from his outdoor area and petrol stolen from their boat - and that prompted her to call the meetings, particularly given her role with police, running the area's Neighbourhood Support and being on the Taharangi Maree committee.
She said the hui provided good opportunities for people to talk about their concerns.
"I am really afraid now ... We are all really worried for our safety," Bray said.
She said Tarewa Rd had a cross-section of people from elderly to families and 23 businesses, including kohanga reo, daycares, doctor's surgery and a bakery.
"We need to take our mana back ... This is our papakāinga and many of us are deeply invested in this area."
Jared Adams, who lives on Tarewa Rd, said most people had lived there a long time. Some had talked about issues with people wandering on to properties.
"It's gotten progressively worse.
"I don't like seeing violence at all. I saw a dude smacking his missus up at the bus stop and they ran off into the Backyard Inn. If it gets really bad, I go over with my dogs. It's just so sad to watch."
Rotorua police acting area commander Inspector Phil Taikato said police had noticed a crime increase in all areas where there were people living in Government-assisted housing.
"We have seen an increase because of the people who are staying in them. In saying that there are some good people there too but as always it's a few who spoil it for others."
Backyard Inn owner Treen McLeay said they had people living there under individual tenancy arrangements.
While she said many had jobs and simply hadn't been able to get a home because of Rotorua's housing shortages, others were on various Government support schemes which they paid directly to the Backyard Inn as part of their tenancy agreement.
McLeay said she was extremely proud of her family's business and their team who were now supporting a number of Rotorua's most vulnerable with a roof over their head.
She said she was approached to see if their former tourism lodge could help accommodate some of those impacted by Rotorua's limited housing options.
"When New Zealand went into level 4 lockdown, we had dozens of international visitors who we supported to isolate and get through this period. So when we were approached to help support some of Rotorua's own people, we were happy to do so – it's what anyone would do."
McLeay said the Backyard Inn had strict house rules and tenants were vetted.
"We have tried to be proactive around this situation for the welfare of everyone involved – my own family, our team, tenants and community."
She said while there had been some initial teething issues, they had made a significant investment in security and onsite technology.
"These, combined with the individual tenancy agreements and house rules in place, have meant we've had a massive improvement in recent weeks.
"Everyone knows we have a homeless situation in Rotorua. Our tenants are all from Rotorua and, for whatever reason, find themselves in challenging circumstances. Many are working, and simply haven't been able to secure a place for themselves.
"I couldn't go to sleep at night, knowing we had all this space and that there were others, sleeping in the park right next to us, who didn't have a roof over their head."
McLeay said she understood local concerns but the situation had improved significantly.
"We just want to do the very best for our community and right now, I genuinely believe this is the best thing we can do."
She said the Backyard Inn had been part of Tarewa Rd for 35 years and they hoped to be there another 35 years.
McLeay said she welcomed the discussions that had been had in the local community and had invited those involved to come and visit the Backyard Inn, meet the team and the tenants who were staying there.
"We all have a role to play in helping our local people. We are extremely proud to be doing our bit."