Major Queenstown employers are in talks over providing worker housing as the government urges the jobless masses to head south.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said over the weekend anyone looking for work should come to Queenstown.
Businesses are struggling to fill positions, particularly chefs and drivers. And thousands more jobs will need to be filled when Frankton Flats developments come online.
But the resort is also in the grip of a property crunch.
Affordable housing to buy is scarce and only 20 rentals cheaper than $800 a week are available in the resort, according to property aggregating websites.
Single rooms in boarding houses are up for as much as $440 a week. One rental agent says at busy periods there are 15 applications per property.
Queenstown Chamber of Commerce boss Ann Lockhart says it’s working with Queenstown’s council over
various housing options.
Worker accommodation is on the table, she says.
“That’s something we’re talking with employers about,” Lockhart says.
“But there’s no silver bullet. It will need to be a multi-faceted answer.”
She says with changes mooted to the district plan there will be increased availability of higher density land.
“It’s not something that’s going to be resolved in the short term.”
Despite the crunch, the chamber is working with the Business Ministry to bring more Kiwis to live and work here.
That’s the trade-off for relaxed immigration laws.
The laws allow resort employers to recruit migrant workers without having to prove there are no Kiwis for the job.
Novotel hotelier Jim Moore, one of the resort’s major employers, says calls for people to move south are “a little simplistic”.
He has workers who commute from Cromwell and he can envisage a situation where worker accommodation is necessary.
“If it’s the difference between that and not having staff, you make a commercial decision to do it.
“But I think most businesses are a long way from making that call.”
He believes businesses will be reluctant to provide staff accommodation - but not because of the cost.
“It starts blurring the lines between people’s private life and work life. We’re not landlords, that’s not our core business.”
He does however believe the council should make it easier for developments similar to Queenstown Resort College’s Arthurs Point lodge.
Woodhouse says it’s up to the accommodation, hospitality and adventure sectors to come up with solutions to Queenstown’s high prices, so accommodation is not a barrier to working here.
New World owner Anthony King, who’ll face increased competition for staff from the Frankton Flats developments, says good accommodation is crucial and there is a shortage.
“It’s a given. One of the factors to employ good staff is to be able to accommodate them.”
Major employers NZSki and Skyline Queenstown were unavailable for comment.
Queenstown Accommodation Centre rental agent Craig Dow says the rental market is “really tight” and competitive. He says the resort is not as seasonal as it used to be.
“We’re advertising maybe two properties. There are leases coming up for renewal in October, but people are just staying.”
One room in a Henry Street boarding house is priced at $440 a week, including wifi, bills and cleaning.
Woodhouse, speaking on TVNZ’s Q&A programme last Sunday, said: “We have quite a strong mismatch between where the labour need is and where the people are. One of the things I would say is anybody that wants to see work should head south.
“There’s plenty of it.”