7 October 2021
Media: Rotorua Daily Post
Topic: Restore Rotorua group
I have attached [see above] a media statement from Restore Rotorua Inc.
We will be running a story on this in our Friday paper and online so for balance, I'm offering council a chance to respond.
At this stage, I'm looking for a general response to the launch of this group and their allegations included in the media statement, such as:
- The claim that council has failed to inform and consult with the local community regarding changes to tourism accommodation in the heart of the CBD.
- That council has failed to inform or consult with the local community regarding six final resource consent applications currently before the Council from the Ministry of Housing and Development for emergency housing.
- That there is insufficient accommodation left to support the tourism industry and that businesses are suffering.
- That council has failed to take into account the environmental impacts of transitional and emergency housing on traffic, noise, odour, water, wastewater, fire hazards, and economic effects, cumulative negative effects on the rental and housing market when granting resource consents.
- That Fenton Street and the centre of town has become less safe for locals, and lost the amenity, ambiance, and heart of the city "which once made Rotorua a top tourism destination".
Is council willing and likely to engage with this group?
If anything else in the media statement stands out to you as requiring a response, please do so.
If I could have this by 2pm today, that would be great.
From District Development DCE Jean-Paul Gaston:
Restore Rotorua Inc have approached Council and we have met with one of their members along with their legal representation. We will continue to engage with them as appropriate.
- Please note that the six consents referred to in the media statement are still in the processing phase. No decisions regarding notification have been made and they have not been granted.
- Rotorua Daily Post previously reported information regarding resource consent processes here
- Rotorua Daily Post reported information regarding accommodation supply and business event bookings in Rotorua this week. See here
Kāinga Ora was also approached for comment and provided the following:
From Darren Toy, Kāinga Ora Regional Director, Bay of Plenty:
Kāinga Ora was granted a resource consent in July by Rotorua Lakes Council to permit the units at the former Boulevard Motel at 265 Fenton Street to be used for transitional housing for people and families in need in need of short term accommodation. Further down the track we are also looking at redevelopment of this site for mixed housing, with it being well located close to transport and services.
We continue with urgency to explore a range of ways to provide more warm and dry and safe places and homes for Rotorua whānau and tamariki to live, including purchase, lease, development and partnership housing opportunities. We would be interested to talk with the Restore Rotorua group about our intentions, as well as explore with them any opportunities they may be aware of which could support the pressing need for more housing for people in the city.
A land use consent has been granted, which is a type of resource consent, and not a “non-complying resource consent” as below.
The Ministry of Housing and Urban Development was also asked for comment and provided the following in response:
I trust you will give the Restore Rotorua press release thorough scrutiny and satisfy yourself about who is behind it and how they would propose to address Rotorua’s acute shortage of affordable housing.
From Anne Shaw, Deputy Chief Executive - Housing Supply, Response and Partnerships, Te Tūāpapa Kura Kāinga - Ministry of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
We can confirm resource consent applications have been lodged on behalf of the moteliers for the six motels named in the Restore Rotorua press release. It’s important to be clear that when people use the term “emergency housing” they are talking about actual people who live in the community and deserve a home. HUD has a policy of not identifying such motels to protect the privacy and dignity of the people staying there and for that reason, we’d ask you to refrain from publishing these addresses.
The resource consent applications are for motels that have been contracted by HUD for the delivery of warm, dry short-term housing, but also of wrap-around support services from HUD-contracted providers. This means they are akin to Transitional Housing (TH).
TH is temporary accommodation and support for individuals or families who are in urgent need of housing that includes support services to help them address their needs and move back into long-term accommodation.
We acknowledge that motels are not a satisfactory long-term response to homelessness but there is an acute shortage of suitable accommodation in Rotorua and while we build longer-term options, we also need to ensure people have a roof over their heads tonight. A motel is a better option for whānau than sleeping in a car or ‘couch-surfing’ in overcrowded homes. We understand Kāinga Ora is responding separately on medium to long term supply options to increase the supply of housing in Rotorua.
While there has been much concern raised about emergency housing in Rotorua, to date those raising the concerns haven’t offered other solutions. We’re very open to hearing about other workable solutions.
The challenges facing Rotorua are well-known and include a low level of building consents relative to New Zealand as a whole, a shortage of available land, lack of affordable housing.
The lack of affordable housing and homelessness aren’t unique issues to Rotorua. In towns and cities across New Zealand, there are people who struggle to find suitable accommodation and some of these have gone from the back streets to the main street. These are members of our communities who need and deserve our support, not derision.
HUD isn’t the appropriate agency to comment on tourist accommodation but would note the following comments that Rotorua Daily Post has reported this week:
From Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson:
“Yes, we are currently tackling housing challenges and have three MIQ hotels but these aren’t impacting our events industry. The biggest impact on events in Rotorua is the pandemic itself and the restrictions on numbers and movement of people that come with the various alert levels. But this is not unique to Rotorua.”
FromAndrew Wilson, Chief Executive Rotorua Economic Development:
“Rotorua will always be a priority location for events given our ability to accommodate significant numbers of visitors and our unique appeal and calibre as a visitor destination. Rotorua has in excess of 10 branded hotels which equate to approximately 800 hotel rooms at 4 star plus/4 star level and another 400 at 4 Star. This is supplemented by 100s of motel, lodge and peer-to-peer accommodation units. By the start of 2023, we would expect to have at least one or two of the MIQ hotels returned to our visitor accommodation stock (adding another 140 - 300 rooms).
Despite the commentary often reported in the media, our accommodation stock has not been affected by MIQ facilities or social housing and aside from the few weekends each year where we reach capacity, there is always room available.”
Media: Rotorua Daily Post
Topic: COVID restrictions and local response
It's in relation to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's decision to ease lockdown restrictions and end the elimination strategy. Here is a link to the announcement.
I'm happy to speak to someone on the phone about the questions below or get them answered as a written response.
Do you believe Delta will arrive in the Rotorua Lakes area following this announcement yesterday? Why or why not?
How will the council react if there are cases in the community/what is the process?
How prepared is the council for cases in the region?
What is the best way ratepayers can get ready for new cases?
Who are the most at-risk groups in our region and how can they be best protected?
From Council’s Infrastructure & Environment DCE, Stavros Michael:
The government has indicated that Delta is a game changer and that we’re unlikely to reach zero community cases in the near future. In response, they are activating a plan to ensure we can live with Delta in the community as safely as possible.
It is likely that Delta will arrive in our district at some stage and at that time we will follow the advice from the government and health officials, who are leading the COVID-19 response, about how to operate safely. Council is not the agency that would make decisions about how to respond to cases in our district.
In previous COVID-19 lockdowns, Council has activated our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) when advised by the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to support the lead agencies in the response.
Our EOC is part of Council's Civil Defence Emergency Management (CDEM) function. We take direction from NEMA, and work regionally with Emergency Management Bay of Plenty (EMBoP), and locally with other EOCs, such as Lakes DHB's EOC.
The Ministry of Health and local District Health Boards have been leading the health response to the COVID-19 pandemic and other EOCs, like Council EOCs, have been working to support the community in non-health related ways such as checking on vulnerable populations, making sure everyone has enough food and access to hygiene products, ensuring people have somewhere to stay and have access to important information about the response.
Outside of lockdowns, Council’s EOC team keeps abreast of the COVID-19 situation in New Zealand and keeps the organisation and elected members informed. The EOC team is ready to be activated as required and council, as an organisation, is well equipped to operate safely and effectively under all alert levels, as we have done over the past 18 months.
In addition to CDEM duties, Council has a core responsibility to deliver reliable life-line services such as drinking water, wastewater, and waste management. To do so, we have ensured appropriate staffing resources are in place to manage these services safely during the different alert levels. We have also encouraged staff to get vaccinated to reduce the chance of Delta impacting our ability to deliver these core services to the community.
Currently the best way residents can keep themselves and their whanau safe is to follow government direction around alert level restrictions, health advice, and to get vaccinated if they can. Vaccination is the best protection against the virus and the government has indicated high vaccination rates are the best way for New Zealand to maintain control of COVID-19, ease restrictions, and get back to safely doing the things we love.
More information: We let the reporter know that the question regarding most at-risk groups in the region should be directed to the DHB.
Subsequent from same reporter:
Thank you for your response to my earlier email.
Would it be possible to put the following questions to the Mayor for response before 3pm today?
- How likely is it that we will see the arrival of Covid-19 in Rotorua?
- Do you think Rotorua is ready?
From Mayor Chadwick:
It’s not a case of if, but when, we get cases in Rotorua, especially when you see the cases in neighbouring districts right now.
So we’ve got to have increased alertness and those agencies that will lead the response when there are cases locally, led by the Lakes DHB and including Council and Te Arawa, need to be well prepared – and we are.
We are a very well connected community, used to working together to lead and help our residents get through.
Vaccination is the key tool we have and we need to get more people vaccinated as part of our preparedness.