Wylie Court motel: Glenholme petition launched calling for transparent Rotorua council process

Opposition is mounting to stop Rotorua Lakes Council from granting resource consent for Fenton St’s Wylie Court motel to be turned into transitional housing for the homeless.

The Rotorua Daily Post can confirm the council has already approved a similar land use change for another motel – the Boulevard Motel – on Fenton St and that consent process was not publicly notified.

A petition has been launched, calling on the council to ensure all decisions around the zoning of Fenton St and the surrounding areas, including the Wylie Court proposal, are transparent and publicly notified.

Kāinga Ora confirmed last month it had bought the Boulevard Motel for $8.1 million and a land use change consent was issued by the council on July 9.

Under the District Plan, motels on Fenton St are not lawfully allowed to operate for long-term accommodation purposes as they are commercially zoned for short-term visitor stays only. Transitional housing is longer term.

The council was asked why the Boulevard Motel application process was not notified.

Council deputy chief executive district development Jean-Paul Gaston said the District Plan allowed, through the resource consent process, for motels on Fenton St to be converted to housing.

“In assessing any consent, planners consider the level of effects of the new activity against the District Plan and the Resource Management Act and whether it would be significant enough to require notifying neighbours and/or the wider community,” Gaston said.

“In terms of the Boulevard Motel it was determined that the effects of people staying in the accommodation as visitors and people staying in the motel for residential purposes would be relatively similar.”

The council was asked if it would make the Wylie Court application notifiable.

In response, Gaston said: “Whether a consent is notified or not is always a consideration for the processing planner. As previously confirmed, this consent is currently being processed and no decisions, including whether it will be notifiable, have been made as yet.”

Gaston said the decision around notification would likely be made within the next three to four weeks.

The Rotorua Daily Post revealed last week Kāinga Ora had lodged an application for land use change with the council on July 29 for the Wylie Court site.

It intends to house up to 142 people in the motel’s 37 units for transitional housing.

Kāinga Ora’s proposal includes full security and wraparound services for those at the complex.

Wylie Court, which has been vacant for several months, is owned by Te Arawa Group Holdings Ltd, which has not responded to requests for comment. Kāinga Ora has not bought the Wylie Court site.

An open letter to all Glenholme households opposing the plans, with an attached petition, was circulated among residents at the weekend.

The petition is also online and as of yesterday afternoon had attracted more than 800 signatures in 24 hours.

The letter, signed by a “passionate Glenholme resident”, encourages residents to write to the council and councillors to express their concern about crime, gangs, drugs and the destruction of Fenton St as a tourist accommodation hub and entrance to Rotorua.

It asks that they demand the council make the resource consent process publicly notifiable.

The letter said the council could potentially grant this consent on or before August 26 as it only had a legal timeframe for processing of 20 working days since it was lodged on July 29.

The letter said Kāinga Ora’s application argued that the overall effect on the area would be no different to that of an existing motel.

“As neighbours, we know this is not the case with other MSD/Kāinga Ora-controlled motels,” the letter said.

The letter also raised concerns around Wylie Court’s transitional housing plan, further removing accommodation from the available tourism accommodation pool and the potential effect on reduced tourism spend.

One of the people behind the petition, who didn’t want to be named, said residents felt they had had no say in the process.

“We are the locals who voted for our councillors and no one has bothered to come to ask us. This is our suburb.”

Bay of Plenty Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities regional director Darren Toy said it was looking with urgency at a range of opportunities to meet the increasing housing need.

It directed questions around the consents for the Boulevard Motel and Wylie Court to the council.

The Rotorua Daily Post sought comment from Destination Rotorua chief executive Andrew Wilson about the concern around accommodation for tourists and the flow-on economic impact.

Wilson said: “Rotorua Economic Development would prefer to see more houses being built as opposed to motels being converted into transitional housing.”

Destination Rotorua’s data showed there was plenty of accommodation capacity available in Rotorua, the statement said.

Rotorua had always been able to accommodate visitors year-round and the organisation was confident accommodation providers could comfortably cater for all visitors, as they did before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The statement said it also anticipated those who had chosen to operate at a reduced capacity during the past 12 months would return to their pre-Covid operational capacity, increasing the number of beds available to cater for both domestic and international visitors.

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