A Queenstown councillor is disillusioned with a planning system she believes disregards the views of local people.
Val Miller says she and fellow councillors spent countless hours discussing rules for people putting their homes or rooms on Airbnb-type visitor accommodation platforms.
Their aim, she says, was to strike a balance between “commercial businesses [like hotels and motels] who are paying commercial rates and who are being affected by Airbnb, and the young families who are needing to Airbnb to cope with the mortgage they’ve had to take”.
“We put in a lot of time and energy coming up with something that really we felt went down the middle line,” Miller says, “and didn’t chop anyone off at the knee.
“We put hours into workshopping that whole thing and came up with a council recommendation for new rules to go into the district plan.”
Planning commissioners, however, decided on a more “open slather” approach to people Airbnb-ing their homes or rooms.
Miller says she and other councillors felt “really disillusioned”.
“There you have three people sitting on a panel, some of whom don’t even live in Queenstown or Wanaka.
“They make a ruling that completely contradicts what the people’s representatives have come up with as being the best solution for the Lakes district.
“So you go, ‘well, why the hell do we even have council representatives if the comm-issioners are not going to take the work that we’ve done into consideration?’
“The whole council is pissed off with it.
“It’s the fact [the commissioners] didn’t take into consideration important factors for the town, because if you let Airbnb go open slather, it’s going to seriously affect the commercial part of town – the hotels, the motels and those people who are paying commercial rates.”
Miller says she blames “a system that’s been put in by central government to make sure that the local areas can’t make their own decisions”.
“I see it happening in other areas as well – it’s not a one-off.
“It just highlights the difficulties [we face] making the changes that the town needs.”