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National Park

Housing, to either rent, or buy, remained in a very similar situation to 2020, with low levels of availability.

"Whenever we get new staff, they find it really hard to find somewhere to live."

Housing unavailability in National Park was considered to be driven by the number of potentially rentable homes being used as holiday homes, some of which were rented out to tourists and visitors, and some used solely by their owners:

"I would say two thirds of the homes are holiday homes."
"Everybody makes their places Bookabach because they get better revenue off that."
"I'm not sure how much of that would be Bookabach, I'd say 60%. Sixty percent of that is Bookabach. A lot of the houses, a lot of them have decided not to put them on Bookabach anymore but they’re still not up for... not available for renting because they are wanting to use the house. They will come every weekend, every school holidays. Every weekend in winter. So they don't want to rent it out long term because they want to be able to use the house. "

However, one participant noted that with the lack of available land to build on, a lot of infilling had occurred, and also pointed out a contrasting situation where a landlord had experienced difficulties finding tenants:

"I've lived here for some time, but in that time when I first was living in my home I had one neighbour. I now have eight, so that's from cutting up sections and people doing developments on them. And of those homes only one of them is on Bookabach. I know that the story is that they're all on Bookabach but they're not. And also my neighbour wanted to rent her house out, two bed, fully furnished, which she bought so she could have hunting and snowboarding holidays and couldn’t find tenants! She wanted to rent it out permanently, a long-term tenant, and she's now just taken on some seasonal workers and she knows that's short term. But you know, of those, if you look at that that's eight houses that re now around me that weren't there before. "

Participants noted that difficulties in running a holiday home for rent, particularly a lack of property management services, meant that increasingly, holiday homes were not let out to tourists or visitors but remained empty:

"Unless it's easy for them to go on Bookabach they probably wouldn't bother, they just use it as a second home and it's just there as an extra. Even those on Bookabach, I would imagine, some of those would hardly get bookings in summer, they would be sitting empty".
"Often there's messages, “Can't find a property manager, does anybody know of anyone?” So I think that is a problem as well."
"Once you've been on Bookabach or Airbnb for a few years you build up your own little clientele. That's what we did, and then after a while you don't put in it on Bookabach. They might come out for the weekend, people you know, you just eliminate the middle person. Or if we were going away we would email it around the little group. I think quite a bit of that goes around."
"Some of the owners are pretty needy. When I was working at (redacted business name) some of the workers would clean holiday homes and they'd get rung up during their shift, "Oh, we forgot to tell you there is someone coming in, can you go do the firewood, or take the rubbish out.... We pay you to do this!" And they're paying like $20 an hour. Some of them are really needy when it comes to what they want people to do. So that sort of drives the market down as well."
"It's a lot of work between needy owners and needy guests!"
"The house next door to us is Bookabach and they don't get people staying much at all. I'm surprised at how little they have. But they don't need much in order to make their payments. They only need a... I can't remember what he said they needed but it's not much because they charge a fortune."
"I can back that up, my neighbour that lets out their place, lets it out at a very, very high rate. It's a very nice house, so it's, you know. And it probably gets let out, I don't know, four times a year?"
"We had to do seven or eight days a month to cover costs."

One participant recounted her experience obtaining a rental house in National Park:

"So, we moved here because it was the only house available. When you're renting you've got to give a months’ notice, and in that month you're looking for a house. You've got to find a house because you've already given your notice. I contacted (redacted, rental agent) and I was actually looking for Taumarunui but there was nothing coming up there. So, the day of my move I moved into my house where I am now unseen, without even viewing it. It was just taken off the photos from the Bookabach website. It was fully furnished, which I didn't need, but it was definitely not built for long term living, especially with the standard of the house. I've stayed in the house for quite a while now and it's terrible. But it was the only house available. There was nothing else here that was empty. I didn't need a furnished house, I already had lived in a house in (redacted town) and I had all the stuff, so I ended up having to put most of my things in a storage unit. But I needed somewhere to go, and it was a house."

Houses in National Park were often low quality due to their age, or because they were not built with the intention of them being permanent residences:

"They’re pretty bad in a sense. A lot of them were built as baches so built for people to come and go. Because they're coming and paying a nightly fee, you can afford to, you know, literally burn lots of firewood or gas because the return on your investment is so high. If you burned that much firewood if you’re living in it.... you'd probably be pretty busy most of your spare time. If you can afford to, you can get around the cold house because you have to overheat it."
"Also a lot of them were built pre-modern standards about insulation and heating so they're not built to that spec. I had to look after a rental house and I remember looking at it and thinking, oh my god, I would never want to live in here with my family. It's cold, and it's horrible. And we need to do something about it but unless someone has got an emotional investment in the person who is living in their house they're probably not going to do it."

Whereas in 2020, participants felt that there was no land in National Park to build new houses, in 2023 many new houses had been built, replacing old ones or in filling sections. Nevertheless, land and houses to buy were still considered in short supply and increasingly expensive by local standards. New houses were being built in National Park by:

"…a mix. Holiday houses but also permanent residents because there are a lot of younger ones coming in a mix."
"Just before COVID a lot of sections went up, that was the big surge of property investment. Something would get listed, or not even listed, and someone would come in and just pay the asking price without questions and they'd either landbank it or.. if we hadn't had COVID I think that would have carried on. But COVID I think put a lot of people just on the edge, they started to unload some of those homes."
"There is a bit of land banked in National Park and people that won't release it because I know people that are building right now and they were looking for ages to try and get a bit of land."
"You're sandwiched here between Landcorp, conservation land and private farmland so it's not easy to expand the village."
"Raurimu is the same. And also people want heaps of money for their land. It seems like prices have gone up a lot."
"A year after I bought my house someone came and knocked on my door and offered me $100,000 more than I paid for it. That’s nothing special."
"It would be interesting to know if it's dropping now with rising interest rates. But I think you know, people from out of town have bought them and own them but it's quite hard to buy them if you're on a local wage."
"Affordability, from a local's perspective, it's not affordable. But not for someone from Auckland with a bit of capital, a bit of equity."
"My neighbour, she bought her home site unseen, 18 months ago. Just after lockdown. The right place just gets snapped up. That house has been sold five times since I’ve lived here, and it’s never, never, had a local live in it.

"Home ownership is not something that I can see myself being able to do."

Moving to National Park required learning new systems and ways of living:

"I didn’t know about firewood. And now I know the difference between firewood that burns slow and firewood that burns fast. I didn’t know about the rubbish. I had to ring the Council. Where I am from, there was rubbish collection, recycling and food scrap collection. Also, the letter box? I had to ring about the letterbox because I didn't have a letterbox. It would be great if the Council, whoever answers the phone, if there was a new family coming into this environment and this community just to have a bit of like, this is what you need to know so you can live here. This is the firewood, it's very important. Here are some numbers to get firewood. Because I’ve gone through a few different places. I wasted a lot of money on firewood going to the Warehouse and Mitre10 to buy firewood. It was a big dent. But now I have a firewood guy, and the pig bucket guy. By accident though, I found the transfer station by accident."
"I am so sad that this was your experience moving to National Park! That you didn’t get a better welcome."
"It’s alright, (redacted personal name) at the FourSquare was amazing. I wanted help from the Council, but when I called the Council it was just, “Get the Pink Bags for your rubbish, they're $6.50.” So really big ups to the guys at the Foursquare. It was quite a place of reference for me."
"The Progressive Association, the residents and ratepayers’ association, are actually working on that, a welcome package. "

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