Absentee property owners blamed for Queenstown crisis

"Someone's going to die before the Government is actually going to do anything."

They were the words of an emotional Ashley Munn to National Party housing spokesman Chris Bishop and Southland National MP Joseph Mooney during a public meeting, attended by more than 50 people, on Queenstown’s rental housing crisis at Salvation Army Queenstown yesterday.

Ms Munn blamed absentee house owners for the crisis.

"It’s getting colder," she said through tears.

"What if someone freezes in their car?"

Southland National MP Joseph Mooney (left) and National Party housing spokesman Chris Bishop...
Southland National MP Joseph Mooney (left) and National Party housing spokesman Chris Bishop attend a public meeting to talk about Queenstown’s rental housing crisis at Salvation Army Queenstown yesterday afternoon. PHOTO: TRACEY ROXBURGH
She said absentee property owners who only used their properties four weeks of a year needed "to feel the shame".

"They just don’t care, because they’re rich enough to own a house.

"In fact, they own two houses, because they live somewhere else and this is just where they go on holiday.

"You need to be shaming these people who have empty houses into letting people stay in them ... so they don’t die."

Mr Bishop said there were many people who were "unaware of the scale of what was going on down here until it started getting some mainstream media attention".

"I think there are some people out there who live in Auckland or Wellington, or wherever, who own a holiday home down here who aren’t aware of it; who are going to say, ‘morally, I’m not going to do Airbnb — I might make a bit less money or whatever ... but we’ve got to house our people’," he said.

Kim Knight, who said she felt like the spokeswoman for "the over-60 people", had moved up to 15 times in the past six months.

Unable to afford the rental prices, she had been forced to house-sit.

"I own a nice car, it’s an old car, but it’s a BMW," Ms Knight said.

"I have this laugh with myself, ‘homeless in a BMW’ — I bet that would make a great headline."

Ms Knight, who was single, said she had many friends in the same age bracket, in the same position.

One of the issues was people her age did not have the emotional or physical resilience of those in their 20s or 30s, she said.

"It’s f...... hard to cope with not having a place to live [and] having to move around all the time."

Another woman raised concerns Queenstown rental housing prices were now being hiked because businesses were increasingly taking on leases.

Her company was looking at leasing a four-bedroom property in Fernhill, with no off-street parking, which was about 30 years old.

"We’re looking at paying $1600 to $1700 a week for that house.

"What we’re seeing through the rental process, now companies are willing to rent, they’re putting rents up, and that’s now pricing out the individuals again."

Hannah Sullivan, one of the organisers of Queenstown’s recent rental housing protest, was one of many who wanted to find an "immediate fix".

"Not one person — whether it’s central government, we’ve spoken to local government, we’ve had meetings with the mayor — [is doing anything immediate].

"You’re trying to build your way out of this — a lot of people working in construction right now are the ones living in their cars.

"You’re not going to have people here to build houses."

Mr Bishop yesterday announced National would repeal two of Labour’s recent tenancy law changes — reversing the removal of no-cause terminations and the provisions which saw fixed-term tenancies roll into periodic tenancies, in most cases — and confirmed the commitment to restore interest deductibility for rental properties and restore the brightline test to two years, down from 10 under Labour.