Parting Shot: Queenstown needs boldness – now


It made hard reading.

“We are living in a truck,” was one comment. Another read: “I am homeless at 65.”

It’s easy to dismiss a concept like Queenstown’s “housing crisis”.

But it’s hard to turn away in the face of human suffering.

The Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust renters’ survey, released last week, lived up to its billing as hard-hitting.

Page after page of heartbreaking comments laid out the depth of the crisis.

Trust boss Julie Scott says there was plenty more harrowing stuff left out because it identified people by name.

All of this shouldn’t be surprising.

Readers of this newspaper are well aware of what’s going on.

In the last three weeks we’ve detailed ski workers are going to be bussed from Cromwell this season, fears of a fatal house fire because of overcrowding and an idea to plonk containers on council land to house hotel and hospo staff.

Last week we had a councillor and a developer offer their views on how to solve it.

And readers have sent a steady stream of letters, thank you.

But it’s not enough. Not if we just sigh, put the kettle on and settle in to watch the finale of The Bachelor again.

Our apathy - yours and mine - is making things worse.

Don’t turn off just yet. It’s not my Sermon on the Mount.

This isn’t simple. Plenty of people have commented on our story about a young couple with a baby forced out of town by high rents.

They paid more than $700 a week for a four-bedroom house.

Critics have a point when they say families should be more realistic - that having a spare room or two is unrealistic when you’re on one wage and can’t afford to eat.

But are people really going to withhold donations from social agencies for fear they’re giving to the wrong sort of people?

Imagine standing outside the Sally Army shop with a clipboard: “Sorry, mate. Those trainers are a bit nice. How much did you pay for them?”

If a can of baked beans fell out of my shopping trolley I wouldn’t worry.

And if $10 dropped out of my wallet (on the rare occasion I carried cash) it wouldn’t be a hardship.

So this week, I’m going to drop a can – no, two cans - of something to a charity. Plus $10.

That’s not a guilt trip. I reckon if I’m not willing to get off my chuff how can I expect changes?

Taking something seriously enough to do something is a signal to those already in power, or those who’d like to be after the upcoming local body elections.

An organised community willing to take action is more daunting for our representatives - councillors or MPs.

Apathetic communities just tick the box of a name they recognise. This October, why not elect a sharp, organised group with a mandate to get something done?

The time for organising committees is over.

These people need to clearly articulate their vision then, once elected, they need to roll up their sleeves and do it.

This is a defining moment for this town.

If people are already living in trucks because of high rents and dog-eat-dog competition for houses, in a few years’ time where will our teachers and police officers live?

Fundamentally, why should 30,000 people pay to accommodate two million tourists when it’s the whole country that benefits?

Central government is silent. This town needs strong leaders to tell them it’s not good enough - and to keep telling them till they start listening.