New agreement seeks to reduce Rotorua emergency housing motel use to 'near zero'

11:01 am on 9 December 2022
Koon Chakhatrakan

A new agreement seeks to progressively reduce the use of emergency housing motels in Rotorua. Photo: Unsplash / Koon Chakhatrakan

The government is expected to sign a housing accord with Rotorua Lakes Council, Te Arawa and Ngāti Whakaue, which seeks to "progressively reduce the use of motels for emergency housing in Rotorua to near zero".

Housing Minister Megan Woods was due to visit Rotorua this morning to sign the accord on behalf of the Crown but her flight was unable to land in Rotorua.

The council, iwi and mana whenua assessed the draft accord in November.

A joint statement from Woods and Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said the accord "renews the commitment" by the government, council, Te Arawa and Ngāti Whakaue for "better housing and social outcomes in Rotorua".

It sought to reduce the reliance on emergency housing, provide better support and care to people in emergency housing, and increase housing supply to ensure "more Rotorua people" have access to safe, dry, warm, permanent homes.

Woods has repeatedly fielded questions about whether social homes in the district would go to locals, including from former mayor Steve Chadwick. In August Woods said it could be dangerous to limit social homes to local people and had not yet decided on a policy change that gave homes to those in most need, no matter where they originated.

"This pipeline of public, affordable, iwi and Māori housing will ensure Rotorua can be a strong, vibrant city with robust housing infrastructure in the years ahead," the statement said.

It said the accord also renewed a commitment to work collaboratively to address Rotorua's "chronic housing shortage, improve emergency housing and the wellbeing of the community".

Signs paperwork

Housing Minister Megan Woods visited Rotorua this morning to sign the accord on behalf of the Crown (file picture). Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

In the statement, Woods said Rotorua had experienced "significant population growth" with more than 9000 people coming into Rotorua since 2013 and only 1200 private homes built, as well as a net loss of public homes "during the period of the last National Government".

"This has created an unacceptable rise in house prices and rental costs.

"Today's accord spells out clearly the Government's current and ongoing commitment to Rotorua as it works with the community to deliver more public, transitional and affordable housing, and also provide safe, supported emergency accommodation."

She said the accord "seeks to progressively reduce the use of motels for emergency housing in Rotorua to near zero, provide quality delivery of care and wrap-around support to people in emergency accommodation and build more public homes to address the housing shortage in Rotorua".

"Significant work is under way, with around 330 public and transitional homes under construction or in planning by Kāinga Ora, community housing providers and iwi and Māori.

"There has been huge investment in infrastructure, including $84.6 million for stormwater improvements through the Infrastructure Acceleration Fund. This pipeline of public and transitional housing will ensure Rotorua can be a strong, vibrant city with a robust housing infrastructure in the years ahead.

"There has also been a strong partnership with Māori resulting in several new housing developments across Rotorua, by, for and with Māori. I acknowledge the work of the Te Arawa and Ngāti Whakaue, who have been working assiduously with the Government to get better housing outcomes for whānau and individuals in Rotorua."

Tania Tapsell is National's new candidate for East Coast.

Tania Tapsell said last change could not be achieved without government, iwi and council working together. Photo: Supplied

In the statement, Rotorua mayor Tania Tapsell said the accord responded to the urgent need to end mixed-use tourism accommodation and deliver better housing solutions for those in need.

"The council is already making more progress in speeding up development with more than a 150 per cent increase in new dwelling consents issued in the last two years since September 2020," the statement said.

Tapsell said "lasting change" could not be achieved without the three parties - government, the council and iwi - "working together to deliver better outcomes for everyone who lives here in our beautiful district".

Rawiri Waru, the chairman of a Te Arawa Working Party responding to emergency housing - and current Rotorua district councillor - said the group was established to investigate and identify solutions.

"We listened to the concerns of our people which has led us to today's signing."

Waru said people must come first.

"He kura tangata, a human being is precious. As mana whenua, Te Arawa and in particular Ngāti Whakaue, respect and strive to take care of everyone in our rohe."

He said sustainable and environmentally-friendly housing development was "desperately needed" in Rotorua, but Te Arawa was primarily driven by its "inherited value of protecting the wellbeing and safety of people who reside in Rotorua and manuhiri who come to our rohe".

"This accord recognises our collaborative duty to address the chronic housing crisis and tackle the many issues that have emerged from it.

"Me whai mana nui hoki ngā mātāpono a Te Arawa ki tēnei take kīhai ki tā Te Arawa whakatau ai - Te Arawa beliefs and ideologies must be given mana and applied as directed by Te Arawa."

Sepuloni said the accord provided a "holistic approach" to housing.

"The care and wellbeing of individuals and whānau reliant on emergency housing is a key focus. The government is committed to ensuring all people who have short-term accommodation needs can get these met while longer-term housing supply is established until there is no further need for emergency housing."

In August 2017, then-Building and Construction Minister Nick Smith signed a Rotorua Housing Accord with then-Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick, agreeing to "work together to address housing supply and affordability issues in the district".

What the accord says

The accord, provided to Local Democracy Reporting, has two objectives which will be set out in more detail in the initial work plan.

Objective One: Care and Well-being and Management of Emergency Housing.

  • To end the use of mixed-use motels or similar accommodation for emergency housing.
  • To provide appropriate support for, and actively manage, the individuals and whānau in emergency housing and look out for their care and well-being.
  • To ensure individuals and whānau exit emergency housing in an appropriate manner ready and equipped to move into better housing.
  • To manage the entry and placement of individuals and whānau into emergency housing.
  • To mitigate current, and prevent further, adverse social, cultural, environmental, and economic effects of emergency housing on the Rotorua community.

Objective Two: Housing Supply.

  • To build a pipeline that encompasses planning and infrastructure requirements that delivers public, affordable and other housing required to meet Rotorua's current and future demand.
  • To grow the overall volume of housing supply.
  • For the Crown and council to actively support those Te Arawa Iwi, hapū, and lands trusts and incorporations that wish to participate in housing supply to do so.
  • To ensure new infrastructure and housing supply will be responsive to demand and provide for the long-term social, cultural, environmental and economic wellbeing of Rotorua and its people.

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