20 Sep 2019

Queenstown housing crisis needs govt help - provider

From Checkpoint, 5:18 pm on 20 September 2019

Those at the frontline of Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago's housing crisis say the problem is now too big to be solved locally.

They say legislation is hamstringing authorities and reliable solutions are disappearing.

Central Otago's Mayor, Tim Cadogan, can remember when the district was an affordable place for a family to move and start a new life. He did it himself.

But he says times have changed and housing affordability is the biggest issue confronting the district.

Tim Cadogan says even when the district has attempted to do something about it they've been faced by red tape.

He took the example of The Pines - a council reserve on the outskirts of Alexandra which it hoped would provide new development and, more importantly, new homes to cater for the district's residents.

But he says attempts to earmark it for the community have been stopped by red tape.

Even more frustrating is the fact the land won't necessarily be developed for the good of the community.

Land Information says it has been a complex process traversing three pieces of legislation and the time taken to resolve the transaction is usual considering the complexity.

Land Information has started discussions with Ngāi Tahu, who have the first right of refusal under their Treaty settlement and hope to complete the process by the end of March.

Environment Minister David Parker says the government plans to comprehensively overhaul the Resource Management Act.

He says it's not the sole cause of the housing crisis, but planning rules are partly to blame with good outcomes curbed by onerous restrictions.

But it's not the only issue facing those in the area.

Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust's executive officer, Julie Scott, says many of their affordable housing projects have been possible due to Special Housing Areas - introduced by the previous National government.

That legislation has now lapsed and no further land will be developed as SHAs.

Julie Scott says that means developers don't have the motivation to provide sections for affordable homes.

Housing Minister Megan Woods says the government build programme will change how and where houses are built houses, and also how the government helps people afford homes.

Mrs Scott says the housing crisis has grown too big for the local community to handle itself.

Housing New Zealand says it currently owns and manages nine properties in Queenstown and four in Wanaka.

In addition it has 10 in Cromwell, seven in Alexandra and one each in Roxburgh and Clyde.

A spokesperson says demand for state housing remains very low in the area and there are no plans to build or buy further properties.