Rental scramble in Queenstown

The Queenstown Lakes District Council is expecting receive four new Special Housing Area...
Queenstown. Photo: Getty Images
A rental supply shortage is starting to bite in Queenstown.

As the resort readies for what’s touted to be a booming winter, long-sought seasonal staff are struggling to find digs.

Seasonal worker Maya Lewis tells Mountain Scene she and her partner and two friends have been looking for a three-bedroom house to rent for about two months.

They’ve applied for more than 20 houses, and haven’t found one yet.

Lewis: ‘‘It’s been super-competitive.

‘‘I’ve been trawling through Trade Me, Facebook groups, [and] real estate websites, applying.

‘‘We’ve applied pretty much immediately after the house has been posted as a rental, and I normally wouldn’t hear back for a week or so, [then] getting an email saying it was  already under application.’’

The group’s moving from Takaka, Golden Bay, which means at present they can’t view rentals in person.

‘‘Most [rentals] have said they won’t even consider you if they haven’t met you yet,’’ she says.

To increase the chances of securing a place, Lewis has offered larger bonds, to pay more rent and have FaceTime interviews, but that hasn’t helped their plight.

She says the group’s current plan is to stay at a hostel ‘‘hopefully’’ for a week or so —  which will cost about $200 a week each — so they can ‘‘physically’’ look for a house.

Lewis, who’s working for NZSki this season, is hoping to find a more permanent home before she starts work in a couple of weeks, given she’ll be on the mountain from early morning till 5pm, making in-person viewings harder.

‘‘It seems crazy that a Kiwi that has a job with NZSki, [in] maybe one of the biggest  industries in Queenstown over winter, can’t even find a place to live,’’ Lewis says.

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson. Photo: Mountain Scene
NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson. Photo: Mountain Scene

Staff accommodation harder this winter

NZSki chief executive Paul Anderson says he understands it’s been harder this year for mountain staff to find accommodation.

He suspects — though isn’t certain — that’s partly to do with the number of properties returning to Airbnb, having been used by long-term renters over the past couple of years.

‘‘Where people choose to put their vacant rooms or vacant homes does have an impact on the amount of stock that’s available for ski workers,’’ he says.

‘‘The other impact, and we’re not sure of this, but we’re wondering if some of the new tenancy rules have meant that some landlords have withdrawn some homes from the market,’’ Anderson says.

He’s referring to the Residential Tenancies Amendment Act 2020, which came into force last year, and, in particular, tighter requirements for ending a periodic tenancy.

To help ease rental woes for their staff, NZSki’s offered some accommodation in their company-owned housing, off Gorge Road.

Anderson says they’ve also been reaching out to the community, as they do every year, hoping to find people with spare rooms wanting some extra income over winter.

‘‘We’ve had a pretty solid response from the community … it’s [also] an opportunity for our staff to stay with a family while they’re in Queenstown.’’

He says NZSki’s also looking at some backpackers’ hostels around town which are yet to reopen.

‘‘We think it is going to be busy, so it’ll be worth their while reopening, but obviously that’s up to the individual hostel owners,’’ Anderson says.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes advises any businesses looking to support workers to find accommodation to talk to the resort’s major accommodation providers in the first instance.

‘‘We have our moteliers association, and we know that at the moment there’s probably a window of opportunity with the staff pressures that potentially some people can’t operate to capacity.

‘‘That additional capacity could be made available for housing.

‘‘Obviously that’s a short-term rather than a long-term outcome,’’ Stokes says.



Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter