Worker squeeze worries NZSki


Tourism giant NZSki is seriously considering providing accommodation for its winter workforce.

The operator of Queenstown skifields Coronet Peak and The Remarkables is expecting growth in tourist numbers and the rise of Airbnb to put the pinch on Queenstown’s winter accommodation this year.

It’s in the midst of recruiting and many of its 800 staff will stay at lodges and backpackers, through agreements which are now being finalised.

NZSki boss Paul Anderson picks there’ll be enough accommodation this season but is worried about next year and beyond.

“We’re monitoring it on a year-to-year basis,” he tells Mountain Scene.

“If we were to do anything it would be a two- or three-year plan because if we did decide to build something that would be a massive investment.”

The company is focused on its skifields so it would prefer not to own and operate accommodation - but Anderson won’t rule it out.

“We’ve got to look at the facts and if we believe that our staff aren’t going to be able to find accommodation then we’re going to have to step in and help with that.”

It might not have to look very far. NZSki owner Trojan Holdings owns large tracts of land along Gorge Road, earmarked for fast-tracked special housing area zoning.

Anderson says the growth in tourists adds to the property crunch, but he also points to Airbnb as making a real difference.

“A lot of those short-stay rooms are now being held on Airbnb rather than going to maybe some of our staff for a three- or four-month period.

“We think that has created a bit more of a pinch than what we saw last year.”

Last month, the Scene reported some large tour groups are snubbing New Zealand altogether because they can’t find rooms in Queenstown.

Anderson agrees the town is 600-700 hotel rooms short in the winter peak.

“I know people who want to book to come now, for next season, they can’t get accommodation in town whether it’s in a hotel or via Airbnb.”

Not only that, he believes there’s also demand for more backpackers and lodges.

Ngai Tahu Tourism South Island boss David Kennedy says some of his staff have had problems finding accommodation in the last 18 months. He won’t rule out building staff accommodation either.

“It’s probably not looking like improving in the short term,” he says.

“We all agree that we need to start trying to find some solutions - that’s an industry issue as well.”

Ngai Tahu Property has told the council it’s interested in Wakatipu High School’s Gorge Road land, possibly for houses and visitor accommodation.