Queenstown’s poverty underbelly exposed


Queenstown’s number one priority needs to be housing, a poverty workshop heard yesterday.

About 50 people attended the all-day TacklingPovertyNZ Queenstown workshop.

They were told beneath the resort’s of moneyed people the reality is different reality for many, including homelessness.

Happiness House co-ordinator Nicky Mason says: “People are living week to week. The thought of leaving town is impossible because they have not got the funds [to do that].

“It manifests into relationship breakdowns [and] the children take that on.”

High rents and living coupled with low incomes manifests itself in long-term renters leaving the area, something she describes as really sad.

Further, those struggling are often suffering from anxiety and depression, which affects their relationships and their children.

Counselling services are available but many can’t afford them.

Another woman at the coalface, Salvation Army community worker Hine Marchand, says the cost of living has increased but incomes appear stagnant.

“The implications of that are overwhelming anxiety, constantly.

“Queenstown is perceived to be the ‘in money’ place.

“Underneath that veneer, it’s not like that at all.

“There are a lot of families struggling. There are a few that are homeless.”

Marchand bought her first home in Queenstown 28 years ago for $97,000.

The same house is now going for $600,000 to $700,000, she says. Because of a housing shortage, some people are renting a bunk bed in a shared room for $200 a week.

They are also required to pay a bond, a letting fee and several weeks’ rent in advance for an individual room.

Often rent doesn’t include bills and with the massive cost of power during winter, many spend summer trying to pay off their bills.

Panelists at the workshop included Dr Girol Karacagolu, of Treasury, and Dame Diane Robertson, chairwoman of the DataFutures Partnership Working Group.

The Queenstown event is the first of a series stemming from a national workshop in December, a joint initiative between the McGuinness Institute and the Treasury.

Other factors affecting Queenstown residents included Work and Income New Zealand’s accommodation supplement, which helps with rent, board or the cost of owning a home, but only applies to some areas in Wakatipu.

Any suburb more than 10 years old qualifies, so people in Fernhill might be eligible for the supplement, but not people in new suburbs like Shotover Country.

“The whole of the Wakatipu [should be] under the umbrella,” Marchand says.

During yesterday’s workshop, participants brainstormed local issues, challenges and opportunities which were then presented at a public meeting at the Queenstown Memorial Centre last night.

A brief overview discussion paper mapping issues and solutions will be prepared and given to Treasury’s chief economist.

Workshops will also be held in Rotorua, Manawatu, Gisborne and the Far North district.

Otago Daily Times