The number of homeless in Rotorua streets formed the impression Rotorua is dying, says prominent Rotorua hotelier Reg Hennessy.
Reg was speaking during a mayoral and councillor candidates’ debate on Monday.
Reg, who has been operating within the CBD since 2002, says he’s disappointed at the reaction to one question over homelessness during a debate mainly about the tourism industry last night.
“I’m very disappointed with the leadership I’ve seen today.”
He noted councillor candidate John Rakei-Clarke’s observations (to “sweep the rubbish” from the streets) with which he did not agree, but John can at least see Rotorua’s problem.
He criticised Merepeka Raukawa-Tait for saying she did not believe it was a Rotorua problem, or a council problem.
“I believe it is not necessarily a Rotorua problem but the council must facilitate this problem before it becomes so bad it that there will be nobody coming into our city at all.
“Our city is dying because of what is going on in our streets.
“I see it day and night; I see the problems my staff are facing; I see the danger my staff are facing and I see the problems the tourists are seeing. And every day I’m getting one tourist ask ‘what is going on in the streets of Rotorua?’”
Councillor candidate Merepeka Raukawa-Tait says she’s sorry Reg is disappointed in her.
“I do know this stuff,” she says. “And it’s not for the faint-hearted. If we could have done it, we would have done it long ago.
“But we need to be clear about the difference between homeless people and people who are unemployed.
“Homeless have high complex needs. It’s not just about housing, it’s not just about low or no income coming, it’s not about mental health coming in so often – so there’s a clear difference.
“Most of those people would be unemployable right now…
“There are people in this city [for whom] government agencies are being paid to deal with this, and they haven’t, and they’ve allowed the situation to get worse – I’m including the health board, and I’m on the health board.
“There are some people here who have got away with this for a long time and it’s not right.”
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick says a housing plan is required. “If we develop a housing plan, the council can lead that and I’ve said I will.
“That includes the CBD. And that’s what do we do in the CBD about inner-city living. So that’s Airband, availability of land, opening up land for developers and also work in with sector providers.
“I do see council has a role leading that and that’s something I certainly will lead. But [while] it isn’t delivered by council – it can be council-led.
“The issue of crime in the CBD is of great concern; if you want to keep your destination a premier destination, we’ve got to manage those elements of public safety in our CBD,” Steve says.
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson says he and the mayor meet monthly with the police area commander and they were to meet again on Tuesday.
The council invests in the CBD safety and has employed security guards and patrollers because of the problem.
“We are conscious of the issue and we raise it at every opportunity with the police.”