Queenstown mayor slams Nats' 'shallow' housing policy

Queenstown Mayor Glyn Lewers. Photo: Mountain Scene
Queenstown Mayor Glyn Lewers. Photo: Mountain Scene
Queenstown’s mayor is fed up with shallow sound bites masquerading as housing policy from the National Party.

Glyn Lewers has attacked National Party leader Christopher Luxon’s election pledge to "help" his council rezone 30 years’ land for housing, made in a visit to the resort this month.

Here to announce National’s $22 million six-point plan to boost tourism, one component is easing restrictions on migrant workers coming into the country.

But when pressed on how the measure could heap further pressure on the rental housing crisis in the Wakatipu, Luxon says a National government will ask every council in the country to consent 30 years’ worth of land for housing.

"At the moment council’s not helping the issue by not consenting land to actually add and build houses into Queenstown to support those workers," he says.

He subsequently corrected himself on Jack Tame’s Q&A show last Sunday to say he meant rezoning, not consenting land.

Either way, Lewers tells Mountain Scene National’s approach will do nothing to fix the housing crisis.

Further, he contends his council has zoned more than enough land for the district’s housing needs.

"We need help with infrastructure, we don’t need help zoning land."

New housing requires four components, of which zoning is only one, he says.

"You’ve also got to make sure the land is commercially viable, it’s infrastructure-ready and it’s feasible to develop.

“They’ve missed the other three parts of the four.

"What grates me is that [National’s] housing policy is just so shallow and made up of sound bites that don’t actually address this very serious issue."

Lewers points to the 2021 ‘Housing Development Capacity Assessment’ report, which shows council has enough zoned land for an existing and potential 63,940 houses this year, of which 44,200 lots are considered "commercially feasible" to turn into housing.

However, less than half — 21,330 — have the necessary infrastructure servicing, such as access to power, water and roading, to enable people to live in a home built on the land.

By 2050, council’s forecasts show it will have enough commercially-feasible zoned land for 70,130 houses, but will only have the infrastructure capacity to service 38,480 of them.

Lewers says National’s announcement particularly irks him because the party "walked away" from a 2021 cross-party agreement to enable greater housing density in the main cities.

He contends the party dropped that commitment because high-density housing is too hot an election issue, but they are contradicting themselves with the call to ramp up zoning.

"Queenstown and Wānaka are in a peculiar situation, we have very high growth."

He points to the latest QV House Price Index, released on Tuesday, showing average property prices in Queenstown-Lakes had risen 0.8% in August to $1.73m, nearly $500,000 above the average in Auckland.

He says council is approving masterplans that will lead to thousands of new homes where they are needed, such as the southern growth corridor south of Frankton.

"We’ve gone beyond and above," he says.

 -  matt.porter@scene.co.nz