“We’ve drawn a line”: Rotorua opposes all additional MIQ hotels

Rotorua leaders are outraged at the possibility of establishing more quarantine hotels in the city, one of which may be adjacent to a wharekai marae.

The Sudima Hotel in Rotorua was used as the MIQ facility.
Photo: Sudima Hotel

With more than 20,000 people trying to enter the country, the government has sought out hotels that could be used as additional isolation facilities.

One potential site is at Whakarewarewa, the historic spa area on the outskirts of town, where around 60 people – many of them kuia and kaumātua – live among the vapor mantle at Te Marae o Pakira.

“They are all vulnerable, you know,” said Aneta Morgan, spokesperson for Tūhourangi. “They have lived there for generations and lead a simple life, they rely on their natural resources to cook, to bathe, their houses are simple.”

Across the steaming stream is the marae wharekai, and towering above it is the neighboring Holiday Inn, which the government is investigating as a possible isolation facility.

And it is Tūhourangi – the iwi of Whakarewarewa – in arms.

“To add that to them, I mean we closed our village on level 4. Now we are planning to have an MIQ booth right next door. [and] we have the new variant of Covid which is highly transmissible, ”Morgan said.

Rotorua already has three isolation centers and Te Arawa Covid-19 response group leader Monty Morrison said the city had offered them significant manaakitanga.

But rangatira Ngāti Whakaue said that all the hapū of Te Arawa had gathered to say nothing more.

“We put a line in the sand,” he said. “When we first met the officials about six to eight weeks ago, it was a no polite and we gave the reasons for it. Since that time we have always said no,” said Morrison.

“As a community here in Rotorua, and Te Arawa in particular, we carry more than our share. “

Te Arawa was not the only one to hold the position.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said three was enough, as was the local chamber of commerce. They said it would take up space for the tourism industry, especially when several other motels were being used for emergency accommodation.

The Lakes District Health Board also said any additional facilities in the city would strain its resources.

Maori Party co-leader and Waiariki MP Rawiri Waititi said the area was being exploited.

No legend

Rawiri Waititi.
Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

“Rotorua and the Te Arawa have often said that they have done their fair share of the heavy lifting, and now they feel this particular manaakitanga is being abused,” he said.

Waititi said 40% of Rotorua’s population is Maori, the community most vulnerable to Covid-19.

The DHBs that cover Te Arawa rohe, the Lakes and the Bay of Plenty, have also been among the worst performers when it comes to vaccine deployment for Maori.

A spokesperson for MIQ confirmed that it was investigating other sites in Rotorua, but no decision had yet been made.

But with a queue of over 20,000 people, he was looking for sites that matched his criteria, with Christchurch and Rotorua in the scope.

But if they decide on Rotorua, they can expect a fight.

Morgan said: “We are just not convinced that they are listening and taking our concerns into account.”

She added that Tūhourangi was planning a demonstration in Whakarerewa on Saturday.

“We get the same answer – ‘a decision has not been made, we have to weigh all the factors’ – but the factors for them are about efficiency and budget, nothing to do with the well-being of our community. “

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