Where will Te Anau tourism staff sleep?
The popularity of Airbnbs combined with the start of tourism after the Covid-19 pandemic creates a perfect storm that prevents workers from obtaining a rental.
Additionally, Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said Airbnbs accommodating more than five people is a breach of council rules, which can lead to prosecution.
The issue of properties being illegally filled with beds was raised on Tuesday by Te Anau estate agent Don McFarlane, who is running for a seat on the community’s board of directors. McFarlane said there was an example of seven beds in a garage in Te Anau.
On Wednesday, Tong said he was surprised by the comments and would look into the matter further.
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The district plan stipulated that there could be no more than five people in short-term shelter accommodation, Tong said.
If an Airbnb had more than five beds, the owner could violate fire regulations, the district plan and also risk insurance issues, Tong said.
Some Te Anau residents, business owners and candidates for local bodies are also concerned about properties used by Airbnb in the city for another reason; they say it is difficult for families and seasonal workers to find housing.
Cristina Salvidar is Service Manager at Fiordland Lodge. She and her partner spent two years in Te Anau, one year in Dunedin at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, and returned to Te Anau.
Salvidar’s employer offered staff accommodation, but the 30-year-old wanted her own accommodation and it took three months to find a rental in Te Anau when she and her partner decided to return.
As tourism increased after the pandemic, Salvidar said it would be difficult for tourism and hospitality staff to find accommodation.
Salvidar got his apartment through a friend of a friend and bought it before it was listed.
Getting a rental in Te Anau in the coming months would become competitive again, but not to the same extent as in Queenstown, she said.
“I’m a little worried, but I don’t think it will be a disaster.”
PGG Wrightson Te Anau director Nick Robertson said businesses were caught between a rock and a hard place because many employees were coming from overseas, but companies couldn’t find accommodation for them.
“Airbnb is taking off again because tourists are coming back, so it’s the perfect storm,” Robertson said.
Robyn Edie / Stuff
Fiordland Jet co-owner Chris Adams fears tourists will get a quality experience if companies can’t attract enough staff. [File video]
“Now that covid has screwed up the tourism industry, landlords are taking over rentals as Airbnb or for themselves. So that’s an update on the rental market.
Robertson suggested that the shortage of rentals in Te Anau, combined with a full recovery of closed borders, could lead to hot beds like in Queenstown. A hot bed is when people need to share a bed and sleep in shifts.
The problem of a lack of staff beds usually boiled down to single people in need of accommodation, he said, which in turn made it difficult for families to move to Te Anau.
Jill Tauri, owner of Te Anau Lakeview Kiwi Holiday Park & Motels, said mixing long-term guests with overnight stayers had always been difficult because the former lived there.
Tauri’s company provided accommodation for its staff.
George Batchelor, owner of the Fiordland Community Pharmacy, asks replacements to stay at his house when they come to town.
Currently, the pharmacy had about six full-time equivalent employees who all lived locally, he said, but Batchelor was considering buying a house for the staff.
If he needed to buy a house for staff, Batchelor said he would make it an Airbnb when staff didn’t need it, to pay the mortgage.
Housing staff in the area depended on one employer, Batchelor said.
“…and it’s unfortunate, but companies need to consider it part of their business model.”
Information from One Roof indicates that median residential sales prices in Te Anau have risen 63.97% in five years, to $617,500. The median rent is $533, according to One Roof.
Invercargill’s current median sale price is $375,000, with a median rent of $335.