There are few places as culturally Kiwi as Rotorua. It is also a city of adventures like sledding, mountain biking and hot baths.
But it is also becoming known as a hotspot for emergency housing.
Housing Minister Megan Woods describes it as a “short to medium term fix” – but it’s one that’s costing the country millions more every year.
The cost of emergency motels rose from just $6 million in the last quarter of 2017 to $19 million in 2018. It rose again to $48 million the following year and $82 million in 2020 .
Then, in the last three months of last year, costs hit $109 million, an increase of about $27 million in just one year. Overall in 2021, the cost exceeded $350 million.
Woods was in Rotorua on Thursday to open a new housing center. It’s a one-stop-shop that people can go to when they need housing.
But Rotorua is not the only place with this problem.
Paora Hekenui is one of 10,000 Kiwis living in a motel room tonight. He’s been to three emergency homes in the past three months alone and told The Hui the government’s short-term fix is putting people like him in survival mode.
He wants decent housing.
“The situation we’ve been put in doesn’t allow for growth — you’re stuck in a place of survival,” Hekenui said.
“How are we supposed to improve when we live hand to mouth? It makes no sense.”
The need, however, is great – and for people of all ages.
Lifewise’s Aaron Hendry said he’s heard young people say they feel safer on the streets because they don’t feel supported and are often in a space with lots of chaos.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that ideally New Zealand would not use emergency accommodation at all.
“But I would still rather use these facilities than have people in cars, garages or on the street,” she added.
The government has said that in Rotorua 220 homes will soon be built to cope with the crisis – one that is becoming increasingly expensive as more Kiwis struggle to put a roof over their heads.