Rotorua Lakes Council takes emergency accommodation motels to court after ‘trying every other option’

Rotorua Economic Development chief executive Andrew Wilson has been harshly critical of the emergency housing arrangements in Rotorua.

“We have 13 properties that have been contracted by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, which have full services and management in the operation of these facilities,” he said.

“Then we have a greater number of motels funded by the emergency housing grants provided by the Department of Social Development and there is a real lack of management around these facilities and the impacts on flows are certainly felt by the surrounding community.”

It was unclear how many families and individuals were staying at the nine hotels subject to the lawsuit. Wilson said the situation reflected broader social and political issues facing the country.

“It just seems right that we’re making sure properties that have been used for emergency housing are also fit for purpose,” he said.

“We would love to see more homes being built. Unfortunately, the amount of effort that seems to be going to the wrong side of the housing continuum, it’s one of those things that’s extremely frustrating.”

Nick Fitzgerald, owner of the accommodation and director of the Rotorua Motels Association, said the move would hopefully produce good results.

“For the community at large there will be less disruption. There will be less damage to reputation and also to the community within these emergency housing motels, in fact there will be better services and I assume a greater responsibility within them,” he said.

In a statement, Chadwick told Checkpoint that end-to-end support was in place for those in need of emergency accommodation, but the council had an obligation to ensure people had secure accommodation adapted to their needs.

The council said that over the next two weeks other operators would be asked to engage with the council to ensure they were compliant if they were to continue providing shelter to those in need.

The Department of Social Development (MSD) said the action was part of a compliance process to ensure the safety and suitability of all facilities providing emergency accommodation.

Bay of Plenty Regional Commissioner Mike Bryant said MSD had a good relationship with the Rotorua Lakes Board and were happy to resolve issues as needed.

He acknowledged the board’s role in overseeing resource management and construction law, and that enforcement actions can affect MSD suppliers and customers.

Bryant said the steps to comply with council regulations were for the motels to take, given that they were private companies.

However, MSD encouraged them to engage with the Rotorua Lakes Council.