Suburbs sell out to tourism

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Commissioners may not think they’re having any major bearing on Queenstown’s overheated rental market, but applications to operate visitor accommodation have more than tripled in just two years.

Queenstown’s council received 119 applications to run visitor accommodation in 2017.

Last year, that skyrocketed to a whopping 414 – a 247 per cent increase.

Despite the boom, independent commissioners appointed to hear submissions on accommodation for the proposed district plan found the issue had a “marginal” effect on the district’s stretched rental market.

The council was hoping to secure restrictions on how many nights houses could be rented to short-term visitors and how many people could stay.

It wanted a 28-day three-let limit per annum, but couldn’t get the green light from commissioners, who instead recommended controlled consent – which cannot be declined – for up to 90 days a year.

Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust boss Julie Scott says while visitor accommodation isn’t the only factor hitting the rental market, it is a significant one.

“I don’t see how you can reach any other conclusion,” she says.

“What we’re seeing on the ground is the increased use of long-term rental accommodation on websites like Airbnb, which is having a severe impact on rental supply.”

The increasing number of applications also means a flurry of paperwork for council staff.

It comes as the council tries to fill dozens of vacancies, many of which are in the consenting and property and infrastructure departments.

Council people and capability director Meghan Pagey previously told Mountain Scene they were technical roles, which are “more challenging” to fill. But she didn’t believe it was impacting processing times.

“We’ve got statutory timeframes to meet, and we do everything we can to meet them.”

That means farming work out to contractors. For all resource consents, the decision-maker is an internal senior planner, or very occasionally, an independent commissioner.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz