Frustrated Wanaka businesses and workers are calling for a better solution to the town’s decades-old annual winter accommodation crisis.
Hospitality worker Nicola Abbott is calling for national funding support for a high-density, apartment-style development for Wanaka’s short-term workers.
She moved from Christchurch a year ago and said younger workers such as her were considering leaving jobs and moving away because of the lack of housing.
“[We] are being pushed out by homes sitting vacant for months listed on Airbnb for extortionate rates and hundreds applying for a singular listing where families are prioritised.”
It was “absurd” that millions of dollars could be spent on the Auckland Harbour Bridge cycle lane during a national housing crisis, she said.
Cinema Paradiso operator and Queenstown Lakes deputy mayor Calum MacLeod sympathised.
“About four years ago, we had a staff member who eventually found a flat, but they were paying $160 per week for a bed in a six-bed room.”
He and wife Andrea could not find a house when they first arrived and are now among Wanaka businesses which provide staff housing.
“Andrea and I got here in 1989 and we spent two months in a tent in Hawea Flat in May and June.
“We eventually found a place, which we had to move out of [for] two weeks while the [house owner’s] family came down for a skiing holiday.
“I think this year it is slightly worse because we’ve got of such an influx of tourists from Australia, putting pressure on the Airbnb network.”
If those renting their property could get “$150 a night”, why would they accept “$150 a week”?
Wanaka businessman and developer Steve Schikker has been a co-owner of Racer’s Edge sports shop for 34 years and for most of that time has provided staff accommodation.
“I think there have been quite a few businesses around town that have bought houses, which are a great investment anyway, but I am sure there are also workers who have had to let jobs go.”
Mr Schikker and his business partners recently received Environment Court consent to build an accommodation complex for 90 workers on land at Mt Iron.
The project cannot start until access and roundabout funding issues are sorted with the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA).
Cr MacLeod said the council’s role was to participate in the conversation between the Mt Iron developer and the NZTA.
Cr Quentin Smith said he was pushing for the NZTA to include a Mt Iron roundabout into a work programme, using funding set aside in the long-term regional transport plan.
Wanaka’s seasonal rental accommodation issues had become “deeply entrenched” and he believed property owners had been making more in capital gains than they could by collecting rent.
The changes in rental laws were designed to improve poor-quality houses but had unintended consequences for tenants, to the point that renting was equally as unaffordable as buying, he said.