House solves staffing issue

Bridget Legnavsky
Bridget Legnavsky
Buying a house for casual staff is one way Wanaka businesses are ensuring they have enough workers over the busy summer and winter seasons.

Kai Whakapai cafe owner Roger North bought an old crib two years ago and said he was well set for staff for the busy summer season.

Racers Edge owner Steve Schikker also bought a house for staff but is now going to a whole new level — applying for resource consent for a nine-villa village designed for 90 seasonal staff. Ignite Wanaka Chamber of Commerce chairwoman Bridget Legnavsky said yesterday affordable housing "certainly sits at the top of the list when it comes to issues for the town".

While it was "tricky" to get skilled or unskilled staff, the Wanaka situation was not as bad as in Queenstown, she said.

The Wanaka workforce was more stable than that in Queenstown, where there was a faster turnover.

"The key issue in Wanaka is affordable housing."

Mr North said staff preferred to rent smaller units than large houses and a change in the rules allowing that sort of development would help.

"You can have 20 rooms in your house if you like and you don’t need special permission."

But the demand was for one- and two-bedroom units "and the rules are not really conducive to building those".

"That’s what people most want to rent."

Mr North said he employed 30 staff in summer but was fortunate to have a larger "long-term crew".

"Chefs are the hardest to come by in summer and we are really well off for them this year."

Mr Schikker said as an employer of 12-15 summer staff and 30 winter staff he knew exactly how hard it was to find accommodation for them.

His proposed village is on a 5000sq m site at the intersection next to Mt Iron, between Wanaka and Albert Town, and providing worker accommodation was one of the main motivations for the project.

"It’s really hard to find an acre of land [4046.85642sq m] that’s economically viable to do it, that close to town."

The villas would provide a "flatting situation" for workers, with each containing six bedrooms, two bathrooms, three toilets, a kitchen, living room and dining room, with a separate laundry.

"Having children who have travelled overseas ourselves ... we want it to be as good as you would want your children to have if they were travelling overseas, and that they can be safe and warm and well looked after."

He hoped it would "possibly" be ready for next summer but "more realistically" for the winter of 2020.

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