Rotorua motels under pressure for taking in the city's homeless

Rotorua motels which have catered to tourists from around the world are now taking in the city's homeless, as well.

The move may get Rotorua's most vulnerable off the streets, but it makes for an uneasy clash of cultures.  

Shelley Hobson-Powell says she has been assaulted by guests at her motel. A long list of illegal goods, including a homemade bong, a weapon and synthetics have been discovered in the rooms, as well as a number of damages.

"We've seen it first hand over the past couple of weeks... travellers don't feel safe in that [environment] and will take themselves out of that motel," she told Newshub.

The town that prides itself on adventure tourism is now under pressure from the growing demand put on motels taking in the homeless.

"It takes away bed nights," Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button told Newshub.

"Rotorua has limited bed nights. We can feel it, and other tourist operators can feel it."

Homelessness is a growing issue in Rotorua, but there isn't enough accommodation.

Of the 648 Housing New Zealand properties, 97 percent of them are occupied. Another 900 private houses are unavailable to families as they have been converted into AirBnBs.

Rotorua gave out 1800 emergency housing grants in the first three months of this year, compared to 200 just nine months ago.

This means more children are calling a one-bedroom motel room home.

"This is home at the moment. There's not a lot we can do but wait," say parents Jennifer Harn and Daniel Wells. The couple have two young girls, Emma and Sydney.

The family are waiting in their fifth motel. They have stayed at their current one for six months - without any hope of finding a long-term home.

"No go. Next to nothing, pretty much impossible," says Harn.

"I don't think it's right that people are living in motels until they can get rental accommodation. AirBnB's [have] taken a big slice out of our rental market," says Rotorua Mayor, Steve Chadwick.

The Government added a Housing First programme just last year to help.

Homeless advocate Tiny Deane, who has already opened a night shelter for the homeless in the CBD, is trying to do his bit. With the help of investors, he is buying up land and planning to build three houses by the end of the year.

"I'd love to be able to give them to mums or children or people in motels. To take the stress off motels and stress off tourism," Deane told Newshub.

Already, tourists are leaving less-than-flattering comments about the town.

A "party town", troubled by "loud vehicles, with music blaring at 11:30pm," says one TripAdvisor review.

"Add alcohol and or drugs, and it's a place you do not want your family in."

Tourists Newshub spoke to said personal safety could influence their decision on where to stay.

Like many places, Rotorua is struggling with homelessness, one of New Zealand's biggest social problems.

But what is at stake affects the whole community.

"The reputation that Rotorua's going to uphold is possibly not the most positive one for the discerning traveller," says Hobson-Powell.

That reputation among travellers has been crucial to Rotorua - for as long as anyone in the hospitality and tourism industries can remember.

The Ministry of Social Development says they're sympathetic to the concerns and although emergency accommodation is not an ideal solution, it does provide somewhere warm and dry for those who are homeless.

They're adding extra support services for those staying in emergency housing and are working with motels, who have concerns about behavior.