10 November 2021
Media: Rotorua Daily Post
Topic: Emergency housing and safety
I have been approached by Restore Rotorua member Gary Smith, retired Superintendent and former Bay of Plenty District Commander, who is speaking out about safety issues in Glenholme/Fenton St.
He has an adult son who has Down Syndrome. They have worked hard since returning from London in 2015 to build a life for their son where he's more independent. For the first time, he's now got his own home and with help from caregivers, friends, neighbours and his parents, he was able to live alone in Lytton St and walk along Fenton St to St Chads every day. Gary said they carefully chose Glenholme as it was safe and centrally located.
In the past six weeks, they have had to peel back his freedoms and theirs given the crime issues in the area. They are worried given his disability he is likely to act in a way that would antagonise those who are now living there in emergency housing (a Government report shows more than 50 per cent of those in EH have disabilities, health conditions, mental health needs or are experiencing issues with alcohol and other drugs).
Gary said their son is friendly, but he is unpredictable and if he sees something he doesn't like (like people arguing or behaving badly) he is likley to speak up, yell something out or act in a way that might harm him.
He said he was now at the stage where he needed to put in place measures before he and his wife got too old to ensure his son was independent for the rest of his life and he was not sure Rotorua could provide the safety to do that. He doesn't want to sell up and leave but said if the council kept "waving through" more resource consents for additional emergency housing, he would be left with little choice.
Statements from Gary for response:
- Real Rotorua locals are being hurt by the council just waving through transitional and emergency housing applications.
- Enough is enough. It is insulting to be told that our issues are just perception and that we suffer from "nimby" syndrome by our council.
- The landscape of Glenholme is now unpredictable and unsafe. There is more violence on the streets.
- Now it’s a circus. Yelling at all hours late and early, public domestic disputes, cars zooming down quiet residential roads, intentional damage, theft, cars broken into, the works. It’s completely overwhelming. It is a ticking time bomb and a disaster waiting to happen.
- His son can’t walk alone anymore, he can’t catch the bus from the places he used to, and his routine has been completely disrupted. To say that the complaints are few, or frivolous, fails to appreciate what it’s like at the coalface. This is our home. This has affected our lives and there is no end in sight.
- The level of foresight needed to predict this would happen is near zero. The council ought to have known that bringing a high concentration of people on the opposite side of the social spectrum, to the existing residents, would cause huge upset and extremely unsafe conditions.
- What is happening is good for no one. It is not the fault of the homeless that they are placed in conditions where their daily activities spill out into, and affect, the neighbours in the area. They deserve more space, they deserve appropriate housing, however the behavior of some of them is concerning.
- I am speaking out because I am a member of Restore Rotorua and if all of us stay silent then it will just get worse. I do not want to have to sell up and leave, but if six more CBD motels are approved by the council for emergency housing, what choice will we have.
- Maybe I'm being naive but I thought the council was here to represent the residents and do the best for them. I don't think they have any ears for this. There has been a public meeting, people like former police officer Phil Spackman have spoken out, there has been a petition signed by more than 2000 people but the council is not hearing us. These things are real to us and the council just says we are nimbies.
- There is a sense this is beocming more permanent.
- It gives me no pleasure to speak out because it's not a very good story to tell. But I feel I don't have much of a choice because there doesn't seem to be a willingness by the people, and I mean the council, who I thought would have a balanced approach for the greater good.
- Everyone will tell you these people in the motels are not all from here. My gut feeling is Rotorua is being used because it's convenient and we have the motels ... I'm over hearing the spin.
Do you believe the council is taking the residents' concerns seriously?
Do you accept the Fenton St area is no longer as safe as it once was?
Do you have any response to Gary Smith's predicament with his son?
When will a decision be made whether the resource consent hearings relating to the six motels will be publicly notified?
When will the independent commissions be appointed?
Feel free to respond to any of the above statements from Gary.
From District Development DCE Jean-Paul Gaston:
We are sorry to hear about Mr Smith’s experiences and his concerns for his son. We will be reaching out to Mr Smith to discuss his concerns directly.
We recognise and acknowledge the concerns of all residents in Rotorua, we are acutely aware of what is being communicated by those who neighbour emergency housing areas, and we are taking the housing crisis extremely seriously. Housing is the number one priority for this organisation. No one wants to see people having to live in motels, but the reality is we have a significant lack of available and affordable housing. The Government’s current approach to emergency housing ie the use of motels, is a temporary solution to an alternative that is unacceptable – people and families living in cars and on the street.
While the current emergency housing response is in place, Council is working with urgency on many fronts to enable more housing of all types, so all members of our community are able to access safe and affordable homes.
Information re Independent Hearing Commissioner decisions:
No update from below information provided on 1 November 2021
We’re currently in the process of engaging and appointing Independent Hearing Commissioners.
Once the Independent Hearing Commissioners (IHC) have been engaged and they have had the opportunity to review the applications, including the further information yet to be provided by the applicant, they will advise Council if they are available to accept an appointment to an Independent Hearing Panel.
As soon as an Independent Hearing Panel has been assembled, the Panel will determine the timeframes and process (including who will be able to appear before the Panel to present their views) to apply to their consideration of the six resource consent applications.
*( for your information a notification hearing is a process that enables Independent Hearing Commissioners to make a determination on whether a consent will be publically notified or not. Please note that decision is not about whether a consent will be granted or not.
If they make the decision that it will be publically notified, the next step will be to determine who is notified, and then hold a hearing to hear from those parties.)
Further information and clarifications:
- Re the comment that Council is ‘waving’ through consents: One Land Use Change consent has been granted for a property that was purchased by Kāinga Ora for transitional housing. As we’ve said previously, we can provide an assurance that the processing planners followed the legislative process in line with what is set out in the Resource Management Act and the Rotorua District Plan.
- Re the comment ‘six more CBD motels approved by Council for emergency housing’: The six consents that are currently on hold (and intended to be part of the IHC’s process) are included in the 12 (now 13) motels that were contracted by MHUD to deliver emergency housing services. Those motels are already in use. Council has always said that the contracted motels would be fully assessed against the District Plan.
- A resource consent process provides a mechanism to ensure that the likes of a temporarily converted motel is suited to residential living – this includes, but not limited to, ensuring there are appropriate living conditions and management plans to address security and on-site operational requirements, such as noise, amenity areas, hours of operation and parking.
- The use by MSD and MHUD of motels as emergency accommodation is an approach that is in place nation-wide. As we have said previously, Council must balance its community leadership role with its regulatory role. At the end of 2020, Council lobbied the Government to improve the current approach to emergency housing and continues via the Taskforce to progress medium and long-term housing solutions while the short-term use of motels is in place.
- You may have heard Senior Sergeant Mike Membery say at last week’s Operations & Monitoring Committee meeting that the centralisation of transitional housing had not disproportionally increased the demands on Police. Council and the Police have continued to encourage locals to report any incidents through to the Police so they can build an accurate picture of what is going on in the city and so Council can adjust security patrols to respond to emerging trend areas. (Police encourage people to call 111 for an emergency and 105 for non-emergency reports).
- That presentation also outlined plans for the addition of CCTV on Fenton Street as a priority. Those cameras are expected to be live within the next three months (subject to hardware availability).
- The Community Safety Plan also includes the recruitment of six additional Safe City Guardians from four to ten. Patrols will also cover more of the city including daily patrols of the Fenton Street and Glenholme areas. Those patrols are already happening.
Media: NZME (Rotorua Daily Post and BOP Times)
Topic: Prevalence of abuse, threats and assaults against council staff and contractors
We are working on a report regarding health and safety of council staff and contractors. Last year's response included data from the past three calendar years, with partial 2020 info as the response was to date. I'd appreciate the responses to these questions below each covering the entire 2020 calendar year plus this year to date please.
- how many council employees have been physically assaulted while working in each of the past three years? And how many council contractors?
- Of these, can we please have the details of who (meaning what role) was assaulted, the nature of the assault, what injury was sustained (if any), what follow up action was such as charges laid (if any)?
- Can we please find out if any of these prompted any changes to council protocol, policy and procedure. If so, which incident, why, and what were the changes?
- Also, how many non-injury incidents were there involving council employees in each of the past three years? And how many council contractors? And how many near-miss incidents for each the employees and contractors?
Some commentary about the prevalence, or lack of, assaults or abuse on council staff and contractors and how the council feels about this would be appreciated. I welcome any additional comment you feel may be important.
Reporter was provided with information [see HERE] and comment from CE Geoff Williams as follows:
Any attack – whether it’s verbal abuse, threats or physical assault – is completely unacceptable and unnecessary.
I’m pleased to see it appears there has been a reduction in the incidence of physical attacks but all the numbers should be zero.
Everyone has the right to be able to go about their work safely, without being subjected to the type of behaviour we see.
Most people are courteous and respectful in their dealings with council staff but anything that impacts the safety and wellbeing of staff, contractors and the public is taken very seriously and we involve the police where appropriate.
Media: Rotorua Daily Post
Topic: Visitor accommodation data
Reporter working on a story about visitor accommodation in Rotorua using Data from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment-led Accommodation Data Programme.
The data shows a lot of information but among it is data about occupancy rates, units available and total guest nights.
I'm sorting this by council area (Rotorua District) and comparing Sept 2020 with 2021 if you would like to look yourself but to sum up, in that time:
- Occupancy rates were down from 36.5% to 18.8% - the lowest since data began in June 2020 on this platform
- The average number of nights stayed per guest had increased from 2.4 to 3.1 nights.
- The 4836 stay units available (daily capacity), is down 10 % from 5389 - lowest since June 2020. This includes those temporarily closed
- The 20.9k nights occupied is down 57.8% from 49.5k- lowest since June 2020
- The 33.5k total guest nights are down almost 64 % from 93k - lowest since June 2020
- Changes to the average number of units per establishment and the average number of guests per unit were marginal
- Monthly stay unit capacity is down from 161.7k to 145.1k and this includes units temporarily removed from the inventory due to closures, maintenance, emergency housing etc.
I am hoping to get some comment from you about this data. While occupancy and guest nights will obviously be decreasing due to lockdowns and lack of international guests I find it interesting capacity has decreased 10 % and guest nights have increased.
My questions are as follows.
- What impacts are you seeing these accommodation trends having in Rotorua?
- Have any accommodation units expressed concerns about the current climate to you? If so what have those concerns been?
- Do you have any concerns about Rotorua's ability to accommodate visitors given unity capacity is down already, without taking into account MIQ facilities and emergency housing etc?
What do you think these trends can be attributed to? eg traditional seasonal fluctuations, Auckland/Waikato lockdown
From Mayor Chadwick
The data reinforces what we have been saying – that there is plenty of accommodation available for visitors.
Hospitality and tourism operators, including accommodation providers, are concerned about the future of their businesses in the uncertain environment COVID-19 has created.
What we need is visitors. Rotorua remains a great place to visit and we are ready and able to welcome visitors back.
Accommodation providers have been hard hit by low occupancy rates but will be able to respond to increased demand as that happens. The Government has also signalled changes will be made soon to isolation requirements, which will free up hotel beds that have been used for MIQ.
And getting our vaccination rates up – locally and nationally – will help us get visitors back so that’s our immediate challenge.
NOTE: Rotorua Economic Development (RED) was also contacted about the data and to ensure accurate reporting had a session with the reporter to help them understand the data. Key points from RED CE Andrew Wilson included that the data shows plenty of visitor accommodation availability and capacity.