24 May 2017

Foreign workers can't afford to leave Queenstown cabins

6:49 pm on 24 May 2017

Foreign workers who are living in cabins in a former camping ground in Queenstown say they cannot afford to be thrown out.

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The future of the council-owned Lakeview Holiday Park is under review.

As the resort gears up for another ski season, the workers are again seeing the squeeze on worker accommodation.

Outside Cabin 17, two Brazilian men are hard at work stacking firewood, getting ready for winter.

This is the cabin of Marcelo Bicca, who has lived here for eight years and absolutely loves Queenstown.

Marcelo Bicca loves Queenstown, and is worried about what he will have to pay for rent if he and his family have to leave the holiday park.

Marcelo Bicca loves Queenstown, but is worried about how much rent he will have to pay if he and his family have to leave the holiday park. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The cabin was basic and a bit small for him, his wife and their child, but this little house was a good home, he said.

"The cabin is pretty warm, has fireplace, a beautiful view, nothing in front of me," Mr Bicca said.

"It's really cheap as well, that's the best thing. One of the cheapest rents in town."

A couple of years ago he thought he would have to move out, and he was scared when he saw that his rent would jump from $200 to $600 or $700 a week, he said.

Mr Bicca said he did not know what he would do if the former campground was redeveloped and all the cabins removed.

Lakeview Holiday Park

The Lakeview Holiday Park's future is under review. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Marcelo's cousin, Marcos Machado, lives nearby in a shared house in Fernhill. It is his fifth or sixth house in nine years.

He and two others split the $500 cost of the two-bedroom house, and Mr Machado's campground was a much better deal, he said.

Finding an affordable house was getting harder, though with a good reference and a hard search it was still possible, Mr Machado said.

He and three others shared a room not too long ago for three weeks, because no-one could find anywhere else.

"Two beds on the floor, and a bunk bed," he said.

The campground has workers from all over the world including South America, Europe and Asia.

Sandip Bharati said there are plenty of jobs in Queenstown but not enough houses.

Sandip Bharati said there are plenty of jobs in Queenstown but not enough houses. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

A few doors down, hotel night worker Sandip Bharati, from Nepal, is living in an open plan cabin with a friend.

It was small and a bit cold but he was thankful for it, he said.

He had heard of people who had found work in the area but could not find any accommodation and were planning to leave town.

There were plenty of jobs, but no houses, he said.

"I think [the] town should think about that ... Maybe council or government could organise a community of affordable two-bedroom houses."

The future of the Holiday Park is up in the air - it was earmarked for a convention centre, but that has been shelved.

The council is now planning to use the land for a mixed-use residential and business development, but it has no timeframe for that.

So, as the accommodation squeeze ramps up again, the town's foreign workers just hope their futures will be given some thought too.

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