Ghetto fears over worker accommodation


A business heavyweight is pooh-poohing a potential apartment-building rush under proposed fast-tracked zoning close to central Queenstown.

And NZSki chairman Sir John Davies worries concentrating worker accommodation in one place will create a “ghetto”.

Queenstown’s council wants to rezone some land in Gorge Road as a so-called special housing area.

That’ll make it easier to build apartments - with a mandate that almost a third of larger apartment complexes are set aside for smaller, “affordable” units of less than 41 square metres.

Last week, mayor Vanessa van Uden was preparing a letter asking Housing Minister Nick Smith to sign off the plan.

Davies - whose family are big property owners in town, including along Gorge Rd - says the fast-track won’t fix Queenstown’s housing problem.

“Nobody’s going to rush in and build apartments,” he says.

Even big employers, especially seasonal ones like NZSki, have a dilemma  about building worker accommodation.

“There’s no way that NZSki can go out and build accommodation for 200 people for four months of the year.”

The tourism supremo’s transport firm, Northern Southland, used to have 41 houses in Queenstown, Te Anau, Mossburn and Lumsden - it has fewer now.

Davies (above): “I reckon it was harder to run 41 staff houses than 200 trucks.”

He adds: “Staff housing, unless you’re very careful, turns into a ghetto.

“It is far better interspersed with the general population than when they’re all clumped together in one area.”

Davies says the economics of affordable developments for investors don’t stack up, when they can spend a little more on each unit and get better returns through visitor accommodation.

NZSki’s experiment this year is housing some staff in subsidised accommodation in somewhat sleepy Cromwell.

“It’ll be a big test,” Davies says.

Gorge Road Park Ltd owns several plots in the proposed special housing zone, including land leased for LPG storage.

High-rise residential develop-ments are incompatible, it says, considering the “potential danger”.

It also pings the council for not consulting land owners.

Rockgas’ owner is the listed electricity giant Contact Energy.

It says while it appreciates affordable housing needs to be built it worries about potential conflicts through a “forced” introduction.

Aucklander Ian Studd, whose commercial property investment company G75 Ltd owns a 5100sq m property in Gorge Rd, asks if rules on carparking would be relaxed.

Meanwhile, Public Health South’s Marie Roxburgh applauds the council’s move but urges the council to consider how cold the area is when buildings are being designed.

She says walkways and cycleways should be weaved through any developments.