22 Nov 2018

Airbnb to open its doors in disasters

2:46 pm on 22 November 2018

The Civil Defence Ministry has teamed up with Airbnb to help hosts make their homes available to displaced people in the case of a disaster.

Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management Director Sarah Stuart-Black will be joined by Airbnb Tourism Advisory Board Member Professor the Hon Bob Carr to sign a Memorandum of Understanding relating to the provision of free accommodation for those displaced by an emergency.

Former Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr and Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management Sarah Stuart Black. Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

The Airbnb app will also be able to share emergency messages to all hosts and guests.

The retired Premier of New South Wales and former Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bob Carr, who now sits on Airbnb's Tourism Advisory Board, flew over to New Zealand to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Civil Defence today.

Mr Carr said the MOU enables emergency managers to utilise Airbnb during an extreme event.

"It makes possible mobilising the good will of Airbnb hosts. Airbnb makes nothing out of it, nor does the host, but they use an existing structure," he said.

He and Sarah Stuart-Black, the director of the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management, put pens to paper at Parliament today.

"We have such a strong history of New Zealanders helping New Zealanders, of being available when the chips are down, to helping strangers," Ms Stuart-Black said.

"This is another mechanism where people who have Airbnb facilities available can choose to help out during an emergency.

"I think it's building on the culture that we already have in New Zealand in a different way, to apply a good will element of helping those affected," she said.

It's not compulsory for hosts to put their property up and those who're displaced will only be directed to Airbnb by Civil Defence teams when there isn't enough emergency shelter available.

Mr Carr said Airbnb is currently being used in California where huge wildfires are engulfing homes.

He said the idea was borne during Hurricane Sandy which damaged New York in 2012.

Mr Carr added the Airbnb platform was also used to distribute messages this month during floods in New Zealand's South Island.

"Airbnb wants to be part of a citizenship that has people looking after one another in a disaster like that."