Many problems in fluid mechanics and acoustics can be modelled by Helmholtz scattering off poro-elastic plates. We develop a boundary spectral method, based on collocation of local Mathieu function expansions, for Helmholtz scattering off multiple variable poro-elastic plates in two dimensions. Such boundary conditions, namely the varying physical parameters and coupled thin-plate equation, present a considerable challenge to current methods. The new method is fast, accurate and flexible, with the ability to compute expansions in thousands (and even tens of thousands) of Mathieu functions, thus making it a favourable method for the considered geometries. Comparisons are made with elastic boundary element methods, where the new method is found to be faster and more accurate. Our solution representation directly provides a sine series approximation of the far-field directivity and can be evaluated near or on the scatterers, meaning that the near field can be computed stably and efficiently. The new method also allows us to examine the effects of varying stiffness along a plate, which is poorly studied due to limitations of other available techniques. We show that a power-law decrease to zero in stiffness parameters gives rise to unexpected scattering and aeroacoustic effects similar to an acoustic black hole metamaterial.