Regional | Napier

Homeless tents taken by council before Art Deco event

Napier City Council says it had been working with people for months in a bid to find them a more secure living situation.

Homeless people living on Napier’s Marine Parade had their tents taken by council staff in the week leading up to the city’s annual Art Deco festival.

Napier City Council staff and police visited about five campsites and removed the tents and other items on Friday.

Trinity Tutaki-Epairama and her partner Whare Wiki are among a number of homeless people who sleep in their cars, spending a few nights every week in a carpark beside a public toilet at the southern end of Marine Parade.

Tutaki-Epairama, who said about 20 homeless people slept on the beach most nights, witnessed some of the removals.

“The council people were hassling them for about a week. Some of the people work. The council was waiting until they went to work then went down and grabbed all their stuff and threw it on a truck,” she said.

“There was one couple in a tent. They were asking the workers where they were supposed to go. They said they should go to Work and Income,” she said.

“This was definitely done to make the place look nice for Art Deco,” she said.

Napier’s Art Deco festival, which ran from Thursday to Sunday last week, attracted tens of thousands of people, many of whom stayed in self contained motorhomes in a large temporary parking area on the Marine Parade foreshore, about 1km north of the city.

Tutaki-Epairama believed the move was prompted by residents who had presented a petition to council to say the tents were an eye-sore.

A couple of the tents belonged to a man known as ‘Jimi’, she said.

“He’s been living on this beach for 10 years now. He’s not giving anyone trouble. It’s just the way he chooses to live. I thing it’s disgusting behaviour on the part of the council,” Tutaki-Epairama said.

The council’s executive director city strategies Rachael Bailey could not say how many people had been removed but said staff had been working with “about five groups of people” following concerns from the community.

“We’ve been working with people on the foreshore for several months to get them into a more secure situation. Some people had more than one tent and some tents were unoccupied as people had moved on,” she said.

“There are a number of support agencies involved and we encourage individuals to take up the support that has been offered”.

“We have stored belongings until people are in a position to retrieve them. We continue to work with each individual about what suits them best in terms of next steps,” Bailey said.

A tent belonging to ‘Jimi’ was back at the site on Monday.

“The tent is new. We have worked with this person previously and have reached out again this morning,” Bailey said.

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Karen Bartlett said emergency housing was available in Napier with no waiting list and “we encourage anyone sleeping rough to contact us and discuss how we may be able to help”.

“Emergency housing is a last resort. If someone asks for housing assistance, our first move is to look at all their other options to avoid homelessness,” she said.

“This could include exploring private rental options they can afford, financial support to help them stay with family or friends, help with rent if they’re behind, help with paying bond for a new property, help negotiating with landlords to retain a tenancy, paying bond and rent in advance for a new place, financial assistance with moving costs, or offering a landlord tenancy costs cover,” Bartlett said.

Overall demand for emergency housing has declined in Napier and around New Zealand.

As at December 31 2023, there were 135 households in emergency housing in the Napier City TLA. This is an 11.76% decrease compared to December 31 2022, when there were 153 households in emergency housing in Napier.

- Stuff