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‘An awesome house’ in Christchurch trumps a shoebox in Auckland

Unable to afford to buy a house, Rochan Blunt and her partner had begun to think they would need to return to work in Australia.

Rochan Blunt in front of her 1920s Redwood house. Photo/Louis Trerise
Rochan Blunt in front of her 1920s Redwood house. Photo/Louis Trerise

Workers are shunning Auckland because of stratospheric house prices.

Rochan Blunt and her partner emigrated from Western Australia to Auckland in pursuit of the New Zealand lifestyle. Including their deposit and the mortgage their bank offered them, they were in the market for a house costing about $450,000.

They spent two months hunting for places within their price range. Mostly they were small two-bedroom units far from where they wanted to live. “It was dire,” says 38-year-old Blunt. They could have shopped around the banks for a bigger mortgage, but she says they didn’t want to become prisoners to debt that would stop them making the most of the very lifestyle they had moved to New Zealand to enjoy.

They liked Auckland and spent many of their weekends during their first winter in New Zealand down at Mt Ruapehu. But unable to afford to buy a house, they had begun to think they would need to return to work in Australia.

Then an opportunity came up for work in Christchurch and they grabbed it. In March, they moved south, and after a false start in which they put an offer on a house in the Flockton Basin – unaware that its land had sunk substantially in the earthquakes – they bought a 1920s place in the suburb of Redwood for $486,000.

Sunny, partially double-glazed and solidly built, it has four bedrooms and a double garage – plenty of space for their bikes, skis and kayaks. “It’s old but it’s perfect,” she says.

For the same money that would have bought a “shoebox” in Auckland they have “an awesome house that we love coming home to”. And they have enough money left over after paying the mortgage to travel and enjoy skiing and adventuring in the New Zealand outdoors.

Ironically, both Blunt and her partner work in the construction and housing industries, the very sectors that will be crying out for skilled workers as Auckland ramps up building to meet the desperate need for new homes.

Mark Champion of the Employers and Manufacturers Association Northern says surveys of the organisation’s 4200 member firms show 21% are experiencing problems as a direct result of Auckland’s house prices.

“They say it’s harder to recruit staff from outside Auckland. Staff are also leaving Auckland because of high house prices, and potential candidates – both internal and external – are becoming unwilling to relocate because of higher house prices. And obviously there’s pressure on employers to increase salaries and wages. More people are wanting flexible hours to [avoid congested] travel times.”

A survey by Frog Recruitment also found employers under increasing strain as a result of house prices, with decreased productivity due to staff moving around different rental properties, difficulty attracting workers to the region and talented employees leaving Auckland.

And a survey by the Auckland Primary Principals Association in June confirmed anecdotal stories that schools are struggling to recruit teachers. Of 168 schools actively needing staff for term three, 65% received five or fewer applications and eight received none.

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