Home-builder helps house teachers

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Queenstown’s savage housing crunch has forced a suburban primary school to rely on charity to house new teachers.

Shotover Primary principal Ben Witheford says a lack of affordable accommodation is stopping teachers taking jobs at the rapidly-growing school.

Fortunately, local home-builder GJ Gardner has stumped up again to help.

It’s providing a three-bedroom house in Shotover Country for well below rental market value at $450 per week.

Last year the company, along with realtor Hoamz, Shotover Country landowners Sharyn and Grant Stalker and other businesses, provided a house at cost for the school to auction off as a fundraiser.

It sold for $810,000.

Witheford says the rental house, which teachers share, acts as a sweetener.

“We pitch it to staff coming into the area. It enables them to settle as they have an 18-month lease.

“That gives them time to assess whether they want to buy – or find a permanent rental property.”

The school opened in 2015 with 88 children but now has 410.

Witheford is currently advertising for six new roles and says accommodation is always a talking point.

“It is a deterrent … The general theme is ‘we would love to come and work at Shotover [Primary] but I have looked at the numbers on housing and living and we just can’t make it work’.

“If this trend continues you are going to end up with schools that are understaffed in the basin.”

Queenstown mayor Jim Boult tells “mirror image” of many in the district.

He stresses City Hall is working on solutions through the housing taskforce and expects a formal announcement soon.

“But in the meantime for ordinary businesses and institutions like schools, council and police it remains a challenge. We have a classic supply and demand issue.”

Witheford gives GJ Gardner owner Nick Tapper kudos. “[They] know they have to live and work in the community and have an impact – rather than just generating income and profit out of it.”

Tapper says he feels obliged and doesn’t rule out further support.

“As builders in the building boom we are benefitting from the increase in population,” Tapper says.

“We need to support the education sector and also those infrastructures that support communities.”

louises@scene.co.nz