Government counts homeless in tourism stats

The Government has been counting homeless people living in motels in its tourism statistics.

Statistics Minister Mark Mitchell has confirmed the Statistics New Zealand Accommodation Survey includes people who are being put into hostels or motels through emergency housing special needs grants. 

It is used as a measure of tourism levels, with the definition used to define the domestic tourists as "one New Zealander spending one night at an establishment". 

The Government uses that figure to trumpet a booming tourism industry.

However when Newshub asked Tourism Minister Paula Bennett if homeless were included, she said no.

"No, because they’re not tourists. Sorry, I’m not sure what you’re asking.

"No they’re not included in the tourism stats for accommodation."

Labour leader Andrew Little said he was flabbergasted.

"My god. I’ve never heard that before.That is outrageous. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry to be honest. That’s off the wall."

Prime Minister Bill English told The AM Show on Monday the Government had nothing to do with it.

"That's the department of Statistics. We don't have anything to do with how they count. My view would be if they're counting them as tourists, they shouldn't be."

It comes after Newshub revealed the Government had a massive blowout in emergency housing grants - spending almost the entire four year budget in just three months.

The Ministry for Social Development issued 8860 emergency housing grants in the months from October to December last year at a cost of $7.7m. The Government only budgeted $2 million a year for the scheme.