Housing accord considered for Queenstown

Nick Smith
Nick Smith
Housing Minister Nick Smith's latest target is to improve housing affordability in Queenstown, where the median house price is $664,000.

Dr Smith yesterday announced the resort was being considered for a housing accord and said he hoped to make a decision on whether Queenstown would be scheduled under the Housing Accords and Special Housing Areas Act 2013 by the end of the month.

The Government has initiated housing accords in Auckland and Christchurch but their accords, which differ from each other, would not be a blueprint for Queenstown.

A statement from Dr Smith said the district was one of the five least affordable housing areas in New Zealand and his officials said the resort met the threshold of the Act.

He now wanted to discuss with the Queenstown Lakes District Council ''whether they concur with that assessment and how we can improve housing in the district''.

A year ago, when announcing he and Auckland Mayor Len Brown had agreed on an Auckland housing accord, Dr Smith said the accord would ''help deliver thousands of new homes for Auckland by streamlining the planning and consenting process''.

He told the Otago Daily Times yesterday he was ''systematically'' working his way through areas in the country to resolve affordability issues.

''Auckland is at the top of the list [and] we are making really good progress there with the accord.''

A Christchurch accord, focused on social housing, was signed last month, and Dr Smith is ''also in the process of extensive discussions with Wellington and the Bay of Plenty. Queenstown Lakes is my next priority''.

''Queenstown's issues are quite unique in that you have got quite challenging topographical issues around suitable new residential land close to the town centre; you have got this very transient population of workers that supports the tourism and hospitality industry and you have also got this high level of demand for accommodation for holiday homes, as well as for the residential population.''

''So in my view the situation is quite different to Auckland but the similarity, of course, is that you have got real issues around the affordability of housing.''

When asked what a housing accord would be like for Queenstown, Dr Smith simply said that was a discussion he first needed to have with the council.

Yesterday, he met Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden to discuss the district being scheduled under the Act.

Ms van Uden welcomed the discussion.

''We need to ensure that there is both good quality rental stock for the more transient tourism workers, along with a good mix of high and medium density housing for the families who are settling here,'' she said in a statement.

While there was no silver bullet for the problem, she said, mechanisms which enabled higher-density accommodation, created incentives for faster development projects and streamlined consenting processes would be important steps in the right direction.

''Rapid population and economic growth is an enviable problem to have, but we must ensure our people can live here in the long-term, and so we look forward to working further with the Government on this proposal.''