Trans-Tasman bubble: National MP Todd McClay MP wants Rotorua emergency housing tenants gone so motels can be used for Australians

A National MP is concerned Australian tourists won't be able to stay in Rotorua because there isn't enough accommodation available. 

Rotorua MP Todd McClay says around 45 motels are being used as emergency housing which is making it tricky for tourists to find accommodation. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck last year and New Zealand was thrust into lockdown, motels in Rotorua typically used by international tourists were instead filled with homeless people. 

Now, more than a year later the motels are still being used to house the homeless and McClay says it's concerning locals. 

"Over Easter weekend, when we are normally very busy, I met visitors who said they couldn't find accommodation in Rotorua or didn't feel comfortable around some of the accommodation. [Instead] they had to drive in for a few hours rather than spending the whole weekend spending lots of money.

"The number of people that said they couldn't find accommodation was quite concerning."

The trans-Tasman bubble is opening on April 19 and will allow New Zealanders and Australians to travel between the nations quarantine free. It's been hailed as a lifeline for the struggling tourism business, but McClay said locals are worried the amount of emergency housing will put tourists off. 

"We want Australians to come here. Every Aussie that visits Rotorua helps save a job and keeps a business open and if they can't find the accommodation they need they will go somewhere else to spend money and that's not good for businesses," he said. 

McClay said Rotorua has a huge amount to offer but is being used as a dumping ground for the homeless. 

"There is a problem and it's of the Government's making - they need to stop using Rotorua as a dumping ground for the homelessness problem.

"They need to build houses and they need to move the people back to where they have come from, and then there will be more than enough accommodation for visiting Australians to spend money in local shops and keep people in jobs. 

He said tourism operators will do their best to meet demand but the Government needs to do its part. 

It's not the first time locals have expressed frustration over the number of emergency housing providers. In March, residents said they felt unsafe and claimed crime was increasing. 

Inspector Phil Taikato,​ area commander of Rotorua police, told Stuff at the time that although crime has "relocated" from other neighbourhoods, overall crime in the city is down 10 percent over the past 12 months.

"Dare I say it, it's horrible to say, but you've got all these young brown bodies, people walking up and down Fenton St and people don't like it. It's a perception. I'm not going to say it's racism. It's just a perception there's more crime happening down there."

Rotorua's Mayor Steve Chadwick said in January that the council wanted more "urgent progress" on getting people out of emergency accommodation. 

"We have a housing plan, we are aligned with the Government on what needs to happen and are working in partnership with its agencies, iwi and other relevant stakeholders. What we need to see now is some real impetus on building and moving people out of emergency accommodation and into homes."

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner for social development Mike Bryant told NZME the organisation doesn't proactively relocate people to Rotorua. 

"We are committed to ensuring that people who come to us in urgent need have somewhere to stay.

"Ideally, no one in Rotorua would be homeless, but when they are, we are here to help with emergency accommodation while longer-term options are explored," he told NZME. 

He said the Ministry would "continue to monitor the situation". 

The Government has been contacted for comment.