Great place but shame nowhere to stay

GRANT BRYANT
Last updated 16:01 26/03/2014
Southland Times photo
GRANT BRYANT/Fairfax NZ
Alisa and Mike Messeroff are leaving Queenstown early after not being able to secure rental accommodation.

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An American couple forced out of Queenstown after being unable to lease a flat say the resort's lack of rentals is eroding its international reputation as "must do" working holiday destination.

After giving up the daily grind in an international airline's corporate offices in New York, Mike and Alisa Messeroff's international travels have been well documented in their popular travel blog, and through Alice Messeroff almost winning Tourism Australia's Best Job in the World competition. 

However, the well seasoned travellers have never hit an accommodation situation as dire as the one they encountered in Queenstown, which forced them to quit their temporary hospitality jobs and the friends they had made.

''We would absolutely be staying here longer than the two-and-a-half months we've been here if we'd been able to find a place,'' Mike Messeroff said.

Alice Messeroff said they never anticipated finding a one bedroom apartment within 25 minutes walk of town would be such a huge headache. 

''When we arrived around Christmas and New Year lots of people told us it would be hard and to wait a couple of weeks - but we always seemed to be waiting for that extra couple of weeks to end and it never did.''

The couple were diligent in their efforts, checking the resort's local advertising bulletin as soon as it came online, but unsuccessfully.

''When we had been looking for two-and-a-half weeks we found a possibility through a friend of a friend of a friend, but it was a loft space with no door.''

As desperation mounted they considered paying extra for a two bedroom apartment.

''We were willing to pay up to $450 to $500 per week, and wanted an initial lease of four to six months, but didn't even get a lot of call backs from letting agents.''

Eventually they decided to quit their jobs and move on.

''We had a great time and we're sad to be leaving, but the whole accommodation situation's left a bitter taste about the whole town really. We got jobs easily, started making some really cool friends, and then had to leave all of a sudden because we couldn't find a basic, no frills place to live.'' 

They would be warning others.

''When we first got here I wrote a blog titled 10 Reasons To Visit Queenstown, which went down really well. The accommodation situation hasn't put us off New Zealand, but we won't be coming back to Queenstown, and we'll be sure to warn people to sort their housing out before they get here.''

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SUPPLY AND DEMAND CRUNCH

Real Estate Institute of New Zealand Queenstown spokesman Kelvin Collins said Queenstown clearly had a shortage of rental accommodation stemming from rapid growth and limited land supply.

''The shortage of rentals has hit a crunch zone in the last six months - the population's been growing, but any new housing being built is not having a great effect,'' he said.

As new houses in the Shotover Country subdivision came to market, young families and first-time home owners moving there could free up central Queenstown rentals.

More one and two bedroom multi-unit complexes geared towards the rental market were needed - but this was far easier said than done.

''First of all, it's hard for investors to get a return, and you need at least 2000 square metres to build something like this. There's a few spots on Frankton Road that could be used for this, but there's no immediate solution because you need at least a year for getting planning and resource consents sorted.''

The short answer for anyone wanting assured accommodation in Queenstown - especially in a short term block of six months, was to lock it in before arriving, Collins said.  

Housemart director Hayley Stevenson said rental accommodation within walking distance to downtown Queenstown was now becoming triple-premium, and backed the call for renters to lock down a lease before arriving.

''With contact, and actual house viewings being so easily available through the internet, we would recommend that people don't wing it so much, and get some accommodation organised before they arrive,'' she said.

''It's sad that this situation has resulted in a bad experience for this couple, but I don't think its everybody's experience. Anything within walking distance to town will probably be rented out on a short term basis over the summer''

- The Southland Times

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