Wanaka local Nicola Abbott says urgent action is needed to accommodate workers in tourism towns.
OPINION: How often do you grab a quick coffee in the morning? Or meet your friend for lunch? Or host a business meeting at a local eatery? Or go to buy some clothing for your wardrobe? Or go to the pub after work?
Every single one of these scenarios is relatable to everybody across the country, and we need to raise the concern for a problem at large in one of New Zealand’s biggest domestic holiday destinations: Wanaka.
I myself am a local resident of Wanaka and, being a part of the younger community, the probability and chances of us and others like us surviving in a town with little to no accommodation is considerably reducing our chances to keep our jobs, let alone simply heading home after the work is done.
Businesses are screaming for workers, Facebook is flooded with job opportunities, windows are full of vacancies, yet our homes consist of an overextended household, hostel or van, making many of our personal lives uncomfortable and stressful.
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I am talking about jobs that are the backbone to an enjoyable, luxurious holiday, such as in agriculture, construction, hospitality and retail.
These jobs cannot perform on their own, but we are being pushed out by homes sitting vacant for months, listed on Airbnb for extortionate rates and hundreds applying for a single home listing where families are prioritised.
Local businesses in the town have started to reduce hours, or even close for days, purely because of staff shortage. It is the last thought to play on our minds, but it is seemingly easier to pack up and leave town, simply to find a proper home and ease ourselves of needless stress.
With two reputable ski fields in the area, the demand for seasonal workers and accommodation for them increases during winter. Due to the current housing situation, many have had to quit their jobs they were initially moving to Wanaka for, as they cannot find housing nearby.
If housing is available, many of these workers are priced out of the market, making relocation impossible. Nearby towns, including Cardrona, Hawea and Luggate, offer slightly affordable yet impractical accommodation for backpackers, mountain workers and those without motor vehicles.
Might I also point out how absurd it is that several hundred million dollars can be allocated for a cycle bridge that will service a small percentage of Aucklanders, let alone the entire nation, all at the taxpayers’ expense, when we can barely find housing to support New Zealand’s largest industries in the country and the highest standpoint of income.
The recent legislation on rental properties also has a play on the issue.
The legislation had been introduced to protect the tenant, however the Labour government has not offered any assistance to implement the changes, resulting in homeowners not wishing to rent or simply unable to rent out holiday homes as they usually would because of the heavy costs to upgrade the quality of housing to a whole new standard.
People cannot justify any value to renting out their holiday homes due to simple cost.
I believe the best solution we have in a small town with increasing population and a high turnover of seasonal staff is to fund basic yet simple apartment blocks that accommodate communal, short-term living, where young workers are prioritised and encouraged to help the tourism/hospitality industry.
I have a desperate hope urgent action will be be done in terms of high-density housing at the expense of the Government for low- to middle-income workers in tourism hot spots of New Zealand.