Emergency housing is being set up on Rotorua’s main road – Fenton Street. Video / RNZ
People are throwing up in the streets, “shooting themselves” in public restrooms, trash, police cars, discarded needles and drug paraphernalia in parking lots.
These are among the latest descriptions of life around the emergency accommodation motels of Rotorua residents and
business owners gave an independent panel the future of 13 motels.
Tourism operators and locals told a hearing yesterday that the impact of emergency housing on the town’s reputation had been ‘catastrophic’ and its rebound as a tourism hotspot was ‘languishing’ .
Their comments followed an independent report released this week that the city had lost about $17 million in tourism spending in three months and distrust of visitor safety had nearly doubled since 2018.
The hearing before three commissioners began Monday at the Arawa Park Motel.
The panel is considering whether to grant resource consent requests filed by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to allow 13 motels contracted for emergency housing to continue legally under the district plan.
Over 3,600 submissions were received, with 80% opposing the consents.
Ministry officials told the panel that homelessness could worsen in Rotorua if consents were not given, and people could end up sleeping rough or in non-contract motels also used by tourists. .
Over the past three days, locals have had their say, telling of businesses around Fenton St being pushed to the brink, ‘zombie movie’ type scenes in the CBD, locals bombarding for safety or feeling compelled to move, muggings, attacks and even hog-bones left in the streets – all, they believe, the result of customers being rushed into motels.
Whakarewarewa Village Charitable Trust chairman James Warbrick told commissioners on Friday that police cars, rubbish and overgrown lawns were not the ‘welcoming sight’ he would like visitors to see before coming to the town.
Warbrick said he was “frustrated” with the complete lack of respect shown by some of the residents at the emergency shelter motel.
“We found the odd person sleeping in our bathhouse after not returning to their unit before curfew.”
Warbrick said some were also found using the village baths without permission.
“The brazen sense of entitlement exhibited by some of these intruders has been absolutely shocking.”
Warbrick said the village parking lot also became a venue for “impromptu booze parties” where discarded needles and other drug paraphernalia were also found.
“I even met people shooting at each other in public toilets.
“And when they’re chased away, they rush to their emergency housing motel around the corner.
“As villagers, we don’t feel safe. We don’t know who is walking around at night, especially since there has been an increase in tagging and petty crime.”
Glenholme’s mother and local business owner Rachel McRae told commissioners she bought her home in 2019 believing it was a safe place to raise her young family.
“I believe [emergency housing motels] significantly harm the neighborhood.
“I was once checking the mailbox with my 3-year-old son and saw a couple so drunk they couldn’t walk, spitting and stumbling between falls.”
McRae maintained that since the motels had been used as emergency accommodation, she had witnessed robberies, speeding and “people walking down the street without hitting their heads with drugs or alcohol.” alcohol”.
“Feeling that your own family is unsafe in their own home is not a good way to feel.”
McRae said she decided to submit a submission because of how emergency housing could impact future generations.
“It’s not just the future generations of the people of Glenholme or the people of Rotorua.
“It’s future generations of people living in motels. Motel rooms aren’t places people grow up. They deserve better than that.”
McRae said five years was “too long without a solution”.
“It’s just an extension of the current problem. They can’t go on living like this for another five years.”
Representatives of the Rotorua Investment Tourism Partnership – which has 45 member tourism businesses – around 90% of Rotorua’s tourism industry – included the new independent report as part of their submissions to the hearing.
Velocity Valley chief executive Debbie Guptill has described the effects of emergency housing on Rotorua’s reputation as “catastrophic”.
“We engage with our customers every day in all of our tourism operations. They don’t stay here. They don’t want to do that.”
Guptill said she had spoken to parents who felt it was unsafe to bring school groups to Rotorua.
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Redwoods Treewalk and Nightlights co-founder and chief executive Bruce Thomasen said the rest of New Zealand’s tourism industry had rebounded as Rotorua “languished”.
“It’s something we have to sort out,” Thomasen told the stewards.
“We understand the need for these people to have a roof over their heads.
“Our loss of revenue is not due to the number of rooms available. It is a question of reputation.”
The hearing before Commissioners David Hill, Sheena Tepania and Greg Hill will resume on October 31.