A former mayoral candidate disputes Queenstown’s council is doing all it can to help solve the resort’s acute accommodation crisis.
Jon Mitchell, who stood unsuccessfully in last year’s election, tells Mountain Scene he believes, in the short term, emergency accommodation is worth considering.
In Kaikōura following the 2016 earthquake, the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance established purpose-built,
pre-fabricated accommodation to house more than 300 people working on the rebuild.
Described as ‘‘simple accommodation’’ suitable for the winter climate, and similar to that used in Australian mining towns, each person had their own room, and ensuite/shower, with shared recreational areas.
Mitchell reckons they could be brought in quickly and potentially put up either on council reserve land, or council could work with developers sitting on vacant land to fast-track consents.
‘‘That wouldn’t be an immediate fix … but that could be in place before the ski season, if the council pulled its finger out and got stuck in working with the private sector to come up with that sort of solution.’’
‘‘It should be the council working with the community, the developer community and the major employers in the district, and with government agencies to come up with solutions,’’ Mitchell says.
‘‘It is not appropriate for the council to say there’s nothing they can do, because they’re simply wrong.’’
Throwing hands up is “not good enough”
The emergency response manager also believes City Hall could explore setting up another form of community housing trust, which could purchase properties for worker rental accommodation but avoid paying fringe benefit tax.
And he thinks it could look at a rating policy which signalled a differential rate for any commercial enterprise looking to create a large number of new jobs, for example, hotels, unless they provided their own staff accommodation.
While supportive of the work being done on inclusionary housing, which aims to collect a levy from new residential development, he notes it’s not new residential development creating the demand for accommodation.
‘‘New commercial enterprises, and a growing service sector, that’s creating the demand.
‘‘My submission [to the proposal] was, if there’s a levy, that’s where the levy should [be targeted], because that’s where the demand has come from.
‘‘The council, I think, needs to think hard about the problem, understand what’s causing the problem, and look to find collaborative solutions.’’
He believes making provision of staff accommodation — first for builders, then employees — a condition of consent would help in the longer-term, though that would require a change to the district plan.
‘‘I don’t think there’d be much objection to it, and those who did object to it would be developers that had a conflict of interest.
‘‘The wellbeing of the community should come above their narrow financial wellbeing — the social and economic wellbeing of the community is more important in that respect.’’
Mitchell agrees solving the housing disaster will require a range of short-, medium- and long-term solutions, but says there’s no time left to waste, and he’s happy to help lead the conversation.
‘‘We should have been looking at these things two years ago … we should have got ahead of the problem and there was an opportunity to do some really innovative things when there was a whole lot of, particularly backpacker, accommodation which was sitting there that could have been snapped up to be used for some of these purposes.
‘‘We lost that opportunity, so that now makes it even more urgent.
‘‘Just throwing your hands up saying ‘we can’t do anything, we’ve tried everything’, is simply not good enough.’’