Emergency housing and special needs grants for Rotorua have now tipped $5 million for a three-month period - far outstripping any other Bay of Plenty district.
But despite questions from Rotorua MP Todd McClay around whether the figures mean Rotorua's putting up out-of-town homeless, the Ministry of Social Development is adamant those accessing emergency housing are local.
For the quarter ending June 2020, $5.06 million was spent on 2088 grants in Rotorua. That compared with $3.85m for 2633 grants in the quarter ending March 2020.
The cost of grants in Tauranga was $2.76m in the quarter ending June.
In June, Rotorua MP Todd McClay called for the Government to "stop using Rotorua as a dumping ground for the homeless" and cap out-of-towners seeking emergency housing.
McClay also wanted those who have already moved to Rotorua for emergency housing to be relocated to where they came from.
He told the Rotorua Daily Post this week there needed to be a better explanation about Rotorua's rate of emergency housing grants.
"The figures just don't stack up. It doesn't feel right there has been a blow-out in the number of people helped in Rotorua compared with Tauranga which is nearly twice Rotorua's population."
He said locals were concerned.
"It is becoming clearer that between the Ministry of Social Development and Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, not enough information is being collected on where these people come from. So if you turn up in Rotorua and say you are from here, you can still get put in a motel."
He said tens of millions of dollars were being spent a year on emergency accommodation in Rotorua.
"The Government should be building houses instead of dumping their problem in Rotorua motels."
But the Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Mike Bryant said the ministry provided data in June that showed the majority of people receiving emergency housing assistance in Rotorua were from the city and he said that remained the case.
Bryant said the ministry did not make people move from one town to another and those who did move to Rotorua for emergency housing were likely to be coming home or returning for personal reasons.
He said there were also clients who moved from Rotorua to other areas and sought emergency housing there.
"We're here to help and will continue to support our clients with their housing needs as we work with our communities and partner agencies."
Bryant said housing demand exceeded supply throughout much of the country, and Rotorua was no exception.
Some of the disparity in emergency housing between Rotorua and Tauranga was due to Tauranga having a greater supply of transitional housing.
He said the reason the number of grants dropped in Rotorua from the previous quarter and the amount approved increased was because emergency housing grants were extended from one week to three weeks as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. So that meant grants lasted for a longer period and there were fewer grants.
Labour's Waiariki MP Tāmati Coffey said he wanted to "clamp down" on any notion that population size dictated the ranking or scale of a town or city's homeless community.
"It was only a couple of years ago, national headlines screamed about how Rotorua was home to the second-largest homeless population in Aotearoa. Out-ranking Christchurch, Wellington and Tauranga as a sign of the neglected housing crisis this Government inherited."
He said although the Covid-19 pandemic response might have slowed construction capacity of new houses, he was confident people could see this Government's commitment to tackling poverty and ensuring "everyone has a warm, secure place to call home remains strong".
"While we are committed to addressing the housing challenges in every community, addressing per capita disparities like this, where need is greatest, is why this Government named Rotorua the only Waiariki-based centre among our six housing hotspots – communities requiring extra attention and a custom-built housing plan, which we recently announced for this region."
He said that plan, in partnership with iwi and the Rotorua Lakes Council, was in addition to new state homes, stronger iwi housing partnerships, fresh Housing First support services and increased investment in papakāinga."
New Zealand First deputy leader and Rotorua list MP Fletcher Tabuteau did not want to comment.
The Rotorua Lakes Council was asked if it was concerned with the amount of emergency housing in the city but in a statement said: "This isn't a question for the council organisation."