A Queenstowner fed up with the resort’s crippling rental crisis is organising a mass protest to demand urgent action to fix the problem.
Hannah Sullivan — a resident of seven years who’s now homeless herself — is calling on every one affected by the issue to meet tomorrow, 6.30pm, on the lakefront by the Memorial Gates.
As the screws tighten on rental accommodation, with more people forced to live in their cars or tents, she says: ‘‘If people are homeless or have been affected or realistically will be affected — looking at what’s happening, I don’t think anybody’s safe at the moment if you’re renting — come down.
‘‘We just want as much support as possible.
‘‘Realistically, we’re not going to get anywhere without everybody’s voices being heard.’’
Sullivan says she’d felt secure in her rental for the past four years till her landlord gave her 90 days’ notice so her digs could be renovated.
She’s tried to find other lodgings, ‘‘but honestly, it’s been like a brick wall every time’’.
‘‘You try to message someone on Queenstown Trading, they’re getting so many messages, they aren’t even getting read.
‘‘There’s really nowhere to go at all, and also, people already have other people in the same situation on their couches.’’
Sullivan says the situation’s worsened her already ‘‘not good’’ mental health — ‘‘I’m hardly eating at all because of the stress, I’m just feeling sick a lot of the time’’.
‘‘I don’t like asking for help, and then you’re asking people for help, it’s horrendous.
‘‘I’m Scottish but I’m a resident here, I’m 30 years old, I shouldn’t have to feel like my life is completely going to fall apart at any moment because there’s no support for anyone.
‘‘What are you meant to do?
‘‘Queenstown is such a rich place, and there are people who are in absolute dire situations.
‘‘The reason I started this whole thing was because I went into Citizens Advice Bureau a few weeks ago and asked them, ‘hey, what can you do to help?’
‘‘And they said to me, ‘you’re actually the sixth person today to come in’.’’
She says people are also referred to community support centre Happiness House and Salvation Army.
‘‘They [all] don’t even have any resources to help you because they can’t magic up somewhere to live.’’
Sullivan, who’s temporarily staying with a neighbour, says the problem is Queenstown doesn’t have any emergency housing.
‘‘We are at crisis point, and emergency shelter, at least, needs to be put in place.
‘‘I think it’s up to the council and government to work together and stop the talking phase, as we need to see action.’’
Rental prices should be capped, she suggests, having heard horror stories of ‘‘people selling rooms for $350 [per week] for a single with just a bed and no storage, not even a set of drawers’’.
‘‘And if it’s an empty house, it should have higher rates, and the ones that are inhabited, lower rates.’’
Sullivan says she also visited local MP Joseph Mooney, who’d initially queried the degree of homelessness but committed to attending Monday’s protest.
She’s aware a lot of people have left town as they can’t find housing.
‘‘But then again, if we all did that, who’s going to be left to work here?
‘‘At the end of the day, the people who work here, who keep Queenstown breathing, are not being supported, and, to me, that’s just horrific.’’
Sullivan says she’s spoken to some business owners about tomorrow’s protest ‘‘and even they were like, ‘yeah, we think it’s a good idea because if this isn’t sorted out we’re going to have to close, because we won’t have any staff’’’.
She’s very keen to have as many people as possible turn up — ‘‘this is as good a time as any to all pull together’’.
And if there continues to be a lack of action, ‘‘this might just be the first of many a protest’’.