22 Sep 2015

Queenstown housing shortage 'creating haven for the rich'

7:30 am on 22 September 2015

Plans to double the height of apartment blocks and have more in-fill housing will stop Queenstown becoming a haven for the rich, says one councillor.

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Apartment blocks up to six stories tall could be built in Queenstown Photo: 123rf.com

The Queenstown Lakes District Council is going to the Environment Court next month to get around restrictions in the Resource Management Act.

It wants urgent approval to start building apartments up to six stories high to help solve its chronic housing shortage.

Cath Gilmour, one of the councillors backing the move, said the changes were needed, or Queenstown would become a place where only the rich could afford to live.

"Fundamentally, we cannot legally put the gate up. And we don't want to aggravate further our affordable housing issues. We do not want become - in my mind - a community where only rich people can live."

The council was also seeking to make it easier for people to subdivide their sections and build new houses.

Council planning manager Marc Bretherton said asking the Environment Court to agree to a pro-development, pro-density approach was unusual.

"Normally an application to the court is to prevent somebody doing something. What we're trying to do is to get the court to agree with our idea that to address housing affordability there's a number of things we need to do right now, and that's where we're looking for the support of the court."

The extreme pressure on housing in Queenstown has led to some workers living in squalid conditions, with new workers confronted by a combination of low pay and high rents.

Earlier this month, Queenstown Mayor Vanessa van Uden said the local council and central Government were both working on a solution and hoped to fast track the building of new housing.

She said the current housing crisis was no excuse to have workers, who mad the booming tourist economy possible, living in squalid and substandard conditions.