North Taranaki Midweek
Grants offer $2m economic lifeline
A Taranaki hospitality school gained a $2 million economic lifeline from its decision to offer some of its rooms as emergency housing during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pacific International Hotel Management School, or PIHMS, in Bell Block, New Plymouth, was among more than 200 providers across the country who cashed in thanks to Government grants to ease the homelessness crisis.
Ministry of Social Development figures, released under the Official Information Act, show about $6.4m was paid out to 16 hotels, motels and accommodation providers across Taranaki between March 2020 and July this year.
But while people were helped when they needed it most, New Plymouth MP Glen Bennett accepted that motels were ‘‘not a long-term solution for people who are in a vulnerable situation’’.
PIHMS, and its holding company, were the region’s highestpaid providers.
Because of the Covid19-related border closures, international students could not travel to New Zealand, so PIHMS had surplus rooms available.
Other top earners were Amber Court Motel, on Leach St in New Plymouth, which got about $727,000; Braemar Motor Inn on Powderham St, which was paid $613,000 and BK’s Egmont
Motor Lodge, on Coronation Ave, which netted $467,000.
The ministry data showed payments to other 12 motels and hotels across the region varied between $114,000 to $344,000.
PIHMS and Amber Court Motel also received the highest number of discrete grants, providing shelter to 267 and 243 people respectively.
The amounts spent in Taranaki pale in comparison when compared to MCentral Apartments in Manukau, south Auckland, which earned the most taxpayer coin when it was given $15.8m to shelter 621 clients.
PIHMS chief executive Bill McCallum said the emergency housing grant money had been ‘‘financially helpful’’ and would help the school in the coming years cope with the ‘‘extreme difficulties’’ presented by immigration policies and the impact on international student numbers coming to New Zealand.
He said there had been challenges in accommodating emergency housing clients alongside its student population, but ministry staff had been ‘‘excellent’’ to work with.
‘‘Those residents that have had to use our facilities have been respectful and courteous, given their circumstances.’’
When approached about the emergency housing grants, BK’s Egmont Motor Lodge and Amber Court Motel declined to comment.
The manager of the Braemar Motor Inn said it no longer provided emergency housing, but it had about 10 long-term renters living on the premises who were ministry clients.
MP Glen Bennett said the solution was to build ‘‘more houses that meet the needs of everyone in our community’’.
He was committed to working with Kāinga Ora, councils, iwi and developers to ensure there was ‘‘not only enough houses, but the right type of houses for our community make-up’’.
The 45-unit social housing development on New Plymouth’s Leach St, which is a project between Soho Group Ltd and Kāinga Ora, was already in progress, Bennett said.
Another ‘‘significant’’ build is due to be announced by Kāinga Ora in the coming months too, he said.
‘‘This will go some way to alleviating the challenges.’’
Bennett said he was ‘‘frustrated’’ by the situation, as one of the reasons he wanted to be MP was to address housing issues.
‘‘To me, it’s personal, and it’s hard to see how long it takes.’’