Many homes not occupied by residents

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by Greta Yeoman

Just over 42% of private dwellings in the Mackenzie district are not occupied by residents, last year’s census data shows.

According to the census, 1485 private dwellings are unoccupied compared with just over 2000 occupied dwellings.

Mackenzie Mayor Graham Smith said many of them would be rented out as Airbnb accommodation.

A search by The Courier on the Airbnb website for a one-night stay in the Mackenzie produced 235 listings for the Twizel area, 200 in Tekapo and about 90 in Fairlie.

The average price per night was $204, the website said.

Mr Smith said while Twizel and Tekapo were both experiencing building booms, most homes being built was for short-term stays.

“A lot of homes are being built for Airbnb.”

This had accentuated the lack of accommodation for workers in the region, he said.

Mr Smith estimated that a property in Tekapo could not be bought for less than $1million, and as Airbnb rentals went for a couple of hundred dollars a night, affordable long-term accommodation was in short supply.

Compounding the problem was population growth, the Mackenzie district recording one of the highest rises in population growth in last year’s census.

The region now had 4866 residents, a 17% increase on the 2013 census, last year’s census showed.

“We still have, in Tekapo .. workers that are sleeping in cars.

“[It is] not really acceptable.”

The council had been investigating housing schemes, like those in Arrowtown and the wider Queenstown area that were held by community trusts, but this relied on land availability, Mr Smith said.

The issue of housing was was not one just for local government, and employers also needed to be part of the conversation.

“It’s not only a council issue.”

Nationally, just over 10% of the almost 1.9million private dwellings were unoccupied at the time of last year’s census.