24 Oct 2017

Kaikōura housing shortage a 'nightmare'

8:25 pm on 24 October 2017

A rental shortage in quake-damaged Kaikōura is forcing some locals to consider shutting up shop and leaving.

A red stickered house in Kaikōura

A red stickered house in Kaikōura. Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

It is almost a year since a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated the seaside town, as well as State Highway 1, and many of the surviving homes have been rented to construction workers.

Locals said while these workers were needed, there was almost no rental accommodation available for residents.

Miriam Guthrie has lived in Kaikōura all of her life, and owned a hair salon on the town's main street.

She said she could not find anywhere to live.

"At this stage I'm looking at transferring to Christchurch ... it's just a nightmare," she said.

Ms Guthrie rented before the earthquake, but was given notice to leave to make way for contractors who pay higher rents. She believed finding another rental would be easy, given she had lived in Kaikōura all of her life.

But her search was futile, with construction workers snapping up a large proportion of the available accommodation.

Ms Guthrie said she had no option but to leave her home town of 40 years.

"My business has become so difficult because I have no staff and I can't work it ... it's a really busy shop," she said. "I've got about four weeks left on my lease so without a house and a potential business I'm looking at leaving."

Other business owners were also suffering.

Jason Hill owns Coopers Catch, a fish and chip shop on Kaikōura's main street, and he said he had lost staff due to the lack of accommodation.

"One thing we have considered is [whether we] reduce our hours... we really don't know. At the moment we are doing our best to recruit," he said.

Ms Hill said the housing shortage would make it hard to maintain staffing numbers at the level required for summer.

Kaikōura's recovery manager, Danny Smith, said Kaikōura had seen a 30 percent population boost post-earthquake, due to the influx of workers. About 300 workers have been housed in a temporary village, but some have had to be housed in other accommodation, such as holiday homes.

There are currently no properties for rent in Kaikōura on the Trade Me Property and Realestate.co.nz websites.

Mr Smith said there was no easy fix to ease the pressure on accommodation.

"There is an excess of 1000 workers here on the roads to get it open and stable, and they needed to be housed," he said.

There were 30 households on a Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment waiting list for temporary accommodation, while new builds were completed or earthquake damaged properties were repaired.

A ministry spokesperson said they were trying to match those households to available accommodation in the town, from caravans and portable cabins, to private tenancies.

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