People picking pets over ‘Queenstown dream’

by Lauren Pattemore - Apr 28, 2023

Vaughan McWhirter packed up and left Queenstown yesterday because he “can’t justify” living here without his dog, Dusky.

Two and half months ago his living circumstances changed and he started looking for a rental, but with his canine mate in tow it was slim pickings.

As a result, the hunt switched from houses to jobs, and it wasn't long before he landed one in Rotorua.

Vaughan McWhirter had his Australia shepherd for three years, and they're 'best mates'.

The “easier living circumstances” up north made the decision for him, he says.

“It's just not worth the stress to be honest. You’re going to house viewings, but at each house viewing (there's) 40 to 50 people...and they're having multiple viewings for the property,” Mr McWhirter says.

A social media post of a pet-friendly rental gathered 200 comments in 13 hours, and Mr McWhirter didn’t get a viewing.

“That (the rental market) coupled with the price of living there as well. I can't justify it anymore...the Queenstown dream wasn’t happening."

He’s not alone, a recent survey by the Queenstown Housing Initiative, which garnered 412 responses, found 25 percent of people had left or may have to leave Queesntown due to accommodation circumstances.

Mr McWhirter worked in tourism - at Coronet Peak for the past two of four years in the town.

In his search, ditching Dusky to secure a place for just himself was never an option, considering the “hours of training and love” he’d invested into his pet.

“Considering how dire the rental market is in Queenstown without a pet anyway, getting rid of my dog was probably still going to leave me in a pretty similar circumstance.

“And then I'm just going to be without my best mate…I’m not gonna get rid of my dog no matter what. I'll move wherever I have to.”

Over at Queenstown Cat Rescue, general manager Julie Milley says they have “very few” cats coming in as a result of the rental crisis.

This year, only two have been handed in by people moving into a rental that doesn’t allow pets, and one because the owner was moving away.

With more than 20 calls about stray cats and three to four kittens coming in a day, it’s a very small percentage, she says.

The rental market is not affecting adoption, with homeowners and renters coming in to adopt cats. They’ve had more than 100 cats adopted this year, which is “pretty standard”, Ms Milley says.

In her experience, Queenstown landlords are quite accommodating of cats.

However, the SPCA has a different story, with area manager Shane Stevic saying the lack of pet-friendly rentals is a “known barrier to adoption”.

“This is not isolated to just Queenstown and we hear across New Zealand that this is an issue.”

They encourage landlords and rental agencies to consider adopting a ‘pets negotiable’ approach.

Main image (supplied): Vaughan McWhirter's Australia shepherd Dusky.

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