23 February 2024

‘No idea is a bad idea’: Fixing Te Anau’s housing crisis

  • Te Anau’s housing crisis is threatening Fiordland’s economy.
  • A charitable trust has offered land for homes to be built on.
  • Southland District Council is considering housing options on public land.

Innovation and action from authorities and local landowners is needed urgently to tackle Te Anau’s critical housing shortage and protect Fiordland’s economy, its business association says.

Following a meeting in January, the Fiordland Business Association (FBA) said it was looking at the response of Buller District Council around temporary accommodation following flooding in 2021, was researching modular prefab and tiny housing options, and had been in contact with a Wānaka developer and local landowner who was keen to help solve the issues.

FBA had since been offered land by a charitable trust in the township to help kick-start planning for new units to tackle the crisis, Chairperson Nathan Benfell said on Wednesday..

“It’s only a pipe dream at the moment, but if you dream big enough dreams become reality.

“No idea is a bad idea.”

On TradeMe as of Wednesday, there were 85 homes for sale, one home for rent, and no flatmates wanted advertisements.

But Benfell said, there were always people looking for places to stay on local Facebook pages.

The Government and other local authorities should consider backing businesses that were willing to invest in housing solutions to help combat the critical shortage.

“This not only benefits employers, but contributes to the overall economic growth of the region.”

Southland District Council Mayor Rob Scott said staff were actively looking at ways to utilise council land to cut back on costs for people looking at building properties.

The idea would be for the council to retain ownership of the land, but lease the land to people to build on, he said.

Scott said utilising council land would help people get onto the property ladder and increase accommodation in the township.

“It’s about doing housing for housing’s sake.”

While the details hadn’t yet been worked out, staff were exploring how the concept could work across the region, he said.

A 2023 survey of more than 70 local businesses showed more than 50% were struggling with staff recruitment and retention due to the housing shortage.

Benfell said there was a clear desire among employers to invest in worker accommodation, but financial constraints within many family businesses were a significant hurdle.

“We now have a responsibility to drive collaboration on strategic and practical initiatives, fast.”

Cameron Davies, owner of the Fat Duck and vice president of Hospitality New Zealand’s Southland branch, said during the summer his staff increases by 100%

He had offered contracts to two travellers this week, but with no housing available he’s been asking around his personal circles to see if there were any rooms for them to move into.

“We’ve got job offers being put in front of them, but then they say they’ll have to move on because there’s nowhere for them to stay.

“They’re a great couple, and they would have added a huge amount of value to us.”

Recruitment issues could potentially see his business cut back its opening hours, Davies said.

“This issue is just going to get bigger and bigger, we’re only just scratching the surface.”

Source: The Southland Times – 23 February 2024

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