The Taumarunui story is one of declining access to housing. Narratives gathered indicate there are houses available are for sale in Taumarunui, but they are increasing in price and are only affordable to people moving in to Taumarunui from other areas and are bought quite quickly.
“People are leaving Tauranga and Auckland with their disposable income from selling and enjoying their lifestyle. And local people are missing out on houses…. It’s driving the values up. But there is short supply of houses for sale and houses for rental.”
As in other areas of the district, the impact of tourism was considered to affect the availability of houses available for rent insofar as many houses are used for tourist accommodation.
“Part of that is the rental side of thing. People are buying rentals forshort term rentals. It’s quite surprising, I googled Taumarunui Airbnb and I was quite surprised how many houses were on there in Taumarunui. So that means that all those houses are not available for people to rent. The other thing that drove it is that about eight to ten years ago they actually removed a lot of the houses out of Taumarunui. Old villas and railway houses. Because at that time they were super cheap and people thought, ‘Oh, I’ll grab a house and take it away and put it on a high value section somewhere else.”
“It is an issue for this community. You’ve got tourist people coming through this town, giving people a way of earning money but there’s a “but” about it.”
“But then, why shouldn’t they, it’s your asset, why shouldn’t I do what I want with my asset? And there are short term rentals that house the Doctors. When the doctors come into town they house the doctors because, let’s face it, they’re nicer than the motels. So sometimes the short term stay rentals bring money into the community, the cleaners, and believe me, they go shopping!”
The above mentioned changes in the availability and accessibly of housing was seen to impact most on vulnerable people and lower socio-economic groups.
“There’s a demand for emergency and social housing. And now we have a lot of people just living off the old age pension. And even people living in their own homes, they are having to go out and reverse mortgage to stay in their homes. And its farmers too, don’t have enough money in their asset to pay the family trust out.”
Housing quality was considered overall to be poor in Taumarunui, though programmes to improve the housing stock have been implemented.
“About 100 houses have been done here in Taumarunui in the past few years, and that’s by EECA and Te Puni Kokiri. That’s just warming….
“Off the top of my head there are 90 houses here awaiting insulation, and the funding is there to do it, but the pinch point is finding people who are willing to do the work. Because it’s summertime and it’s not the most easy job. It’s a miserable job actually. But there is some distance to go in terms of the quality of housing here. Not just rentals, peoples’ own houses. Probably because of lack of income, unemployment.
“There has been a doing up sort of phase and most of the builders would be pretty busy. But you walk down the back streets and some of the houses are pretty poor.”
“I think the real rub here in Taumarunui is with the lower socio-economic groups. We’re really struggling to provide good housing for those people… But I think you need to ask the Iwi. There are housing projects going on, and I don’t know the details of it. I’m aware it’s happening.”
“I see homeless people sleeping in cars. There is the odd person sleeping rough. I come in to work early and see the odd person at the Cherry Grove and think, ‘Oh, that person’s spent the night in their car’. It’s the same person a number of times and I think, ‘Oh poor person they need a house.”
Difficulties accessing housing was seen as a barrier to attracting skilled labourers and professionals to the town.
“Typically (company) has taken on electricians and really highly skilled people and most of them work during the week and fly out and go home because there’s nothing here for them.”
“If people come in, like hospital staff, say, doctors and nurses, to work there, where are they going to live? It’s become an issue. There are other employing agencies that are finding it difficult too. The pharmacy for example, is finding it difficult to get employees because they’ve got nowhere to live. The hospital has some accommodation, houses, and on what used to be called Ward 4, but it’s pretty sparse.”