13 May 2016

9% of Queenstown ratepayers live overseas

7:23 pm on 13 May 2016

Data released to RNZ News shows that 8.6 percent of Queenstown ratepayers have supplied an overseas address as their main point of contact for the payment of rates.

Queenstown by Lake Wakitipu

Queenstown by Lake Wakitipu Photo: 123RF

The real level of overseas ownership could be much higher because many overseas owners would use a local agent, trust or lawyer to pay their rates. The local agent's address is what would appear on the council's database.

Out of a total database of 25,000 ratepayers, there were 2142 ratepayers who supplied an overseas address.

Many tenants have approached RNZ News complaining of high rents and poor living conditions that some say is linked to overseas property owners.

The high cost of housing in Queenstown has been fed by not just overseas buyers but people moving from other parts of New Zealand, especially Auckland.

Many houses were built 30 to 50 years ago as holiday homes for the Queenstown summer, with thin walls and no double glazing. Those same houses are now worth up to a $1 million each, with individual rooms being shared by up to four people paying as much as $175 rent each per week.

The shortage of Queenstown property is now so severe that some employers, such as ski field operator NZ Ski, are providing accommodation in Cromwell which is an hour's drive from Queenstown. Cromwell has capitalised on the Queenstown shortage by providing extra accommodation, some of it targeted at Queenstown workers.

The flood of people into Queenstown, both tourists and residents, has so far not been affected by the housing shortage, but that may soon change. Many Queenstown employers are now asking for proof of accommodation before they will consider someone as a potential employee.

To make matters even more challenging the average income in Queenstown is lower than big cities such as Auckland. The Auckland ratio of median property price to average income is a high nine to one, but in Queenstown it is 10.5 to one - one of the highest rates in the world.

This ratio of lower incomes to high property prices makes the Queenstown market very sensitive to overseas buyers who have access to the cash to push house prices even higher.

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