Hot showers show Queenstown cares as rental crisis deepens

Apr 26, 2023

With Queenstown deep in a rental crisis and a cold winter looming, community comradery is bringing some warmth to those struggling to access a hot shower.

Organisers of the Queenstown Housing Initiative Facebook group have collaborated with infrastructure company Veolia to offer free bathroom facilities to those without adequate access to them otherwise.

One of the initiative’s founders Lindsay Waterfield says paying to access a shower is common amongst people with insecure housing arrangements.

Queenstown Housing Initiative campaigners Lindsay Waterfield (right) and Hannah Sullivan.

“People are having to get gym memberships or memberships to the pool in order to just have a shower and get clean…That didn’t sit right in my stomach.”

She was glad to have Veolia reach out in response to her Facebook posts in the group asking if local businesses would be willing to help.

Now the company, which has a base in Frankton, is offering their shower amenities for locals in need.

Ms Waterfield says the group is also working to confirm support with a number of other businesses in the community.

She hopes the collaboration with Veolia will inspire other businesses to follow suit if they can.

Ms Waterfield says plenty of people in the community are acknowledging the severity of the situation. 

“It’s not just the people in their cars, tents or couch surfing, the whole community is struggling with this.”

Generous locals are also supporting those living without a secure roof over their heads, offering up donations of items like blankets, hot water bottles and socks through the Queenstown Cares Facebook Group.  

Ms Waterfield says it is encouraging to see the community coming together and lending a helping hand.

“Every person you know knows somebody in this situation, so everybody is doing what they can.”

Alongside helping to connect the working homeless with some of the basics, bold advocacy by the initiative is heating up.  

Ms Waterfield says, on the back of recent protests grabbing the attention of local decision makers and a public meeting scheduled for April 27, action is overdue. 

“There’s been a lot of talk about action but we haven’t seen any.”

Community Facebook pages are allowing Queenstown locals offering support to connect with people struggling to find secure accommodation.

The current crisis has been decades in the making, without any adequate policy action for those struggling to house themselves and access the basics like hot water, she says.

Recent Queenstown Lakes District Council data shows as many as 27 percent of homes in the district are unoccupied, while median weekly rent is $140 more than the national figure, meaning providing affordable and adequate housing is challenging.

“We are still in a worse-off situation than any time prior,” Ms Waterfield says.

“We’ve reached boiling point. We need action now.” 

People in need can access the free shower facilities at 74 Glenda Drive in Frankton, Monday to Friday from 8am to 5pm, by mentioning the Queenstown Housing Initiative.

Gemma Marnane is a Massey University student journalist interning with Crux.

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