Opinion: Ready to listen to housing solutions

Dylan Rushbrook. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Dylan Rushbrook. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Some may have seen recently the developers of property in Shortcut Rd in Cromwell were not given permission to operate as short-term travellers’ accommodation.

There were various reasons for the decision, but a key influencing factor was a piece of research that showed the Cromwell rental market has not grown at the same pace as the general population. This essentially means every year there are fewer rentals available, but the demand for them climbs.

We see and hear of this regularly, with families struggling to stay in Central Otago.

Anecdotally we also hear there is a need for more short-term travellers’ accommodation in Central Otago. With new cycle trails coming through, the Memorial Hall development and private development such as Scapegrace coming on line in a few years, Central Otago will undoubtedly start to see interest from larger players in the commercial accommodation sector.

At the same time there are calls from the entire tourism sector to instigate levies to help fund critical infrastructure and destination management. Ideally, standardised levies would be placed on all forms of accommodation, and returned to the host region that generated them to help pay for the pressure visitors apply to a destination.

Within the Community Vision group there are people doing some great work in the housing space and trying to firstly correctly understand the issue and then find appropriate solutions.

It’s all very well to say build more houses, but if we haven’t identified the problem we are trying to solve, the likelihood is we’ll build the wrong type of housing and won’t solve any problem but more likely create more issues.

So what’s the council’s role in all this? It is correct that we do provide some housing through the elderly persons’ options in the district. But aside from that, it would be fair to say the council has limited capacity to develop housing alone, particularly due to the current economic climate.

Through our Community Development arm we are currently an active participant in a housing working group with other parts of the community to understand the need and possible solutions.

Economic Development has been facilitating conversations within the business sector about attracting investment and possible partnerships.

The Central Otago Destination Management Plan talks about attracting investment to fill product gaps, while also seeking better system funding models which may include visitor levies.

What we know for certain is that more housing is needed within our communities at all levels. So too is more commercial accommodation if we are to realise the true potential of the region. But also that accommodation, in any form, is a complex issue that communities right across Aotearoa are struggling with.

I regularly hear members of the community suggesting it’s a council issue to resolve. Quite simply put, it’s not. It is an issue the council can play a part in alongside the community. So I’m keen to sit down with anyone who has identified an issue and offers possible solutions that we can realistically progress with limited financial impact on the communities we serve.

Dylan Rushbrook, Central Otago District Council group manager, community vision