Plan to buy 400-bed European cruise liner and sail it to New Zealand to ease housing crisis gets mixed reaction
Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin
A group of New Zealand businessman have come up with an idea to help New Zealand's homeless – place them on a cruise ship.
Charity groups in Auckland estimate hundreds of people are sleeping rough in the city every night, with dozens of working families also bedding down in cars, garages and Te Puea Marae (Maori meeting houses).
Christchurch businessman Garry House said: “Living on a cruise ship is not a long-term solution but things are so bad for so many families now it could help ease the pressure for two or three years while longer-term strategies are put into place.”
House has, with a number of colleagues, begun investigating purchasing a 400-bed Italian cruise liner and docking it in Auckland harbour.
He estimates the cost of purchasing and transporting it to New Zealand to be at least NZ$5m. It could reach New Zealand from Europe in a month, House said.
Auckland's housing market is one of the most expensive in the world; property prices have increased 77.5% in the past five years, and the average house price is more than NZ$940,000 (£498,000), according to property data provider CoreLogic New Zealand.
Campbell Roberts from the Salvation Army said that although he was heartened by Kiwis' “creative thinking” on the issue, a cruise ship would not be suitable accommodation for a high-needs population.
“What New Zealand needs to face up too is finding long-term, permanent solutions,” said Roberts.
“A cruise ship is fine for a month but to live on it for any longer would be a strange experience for the inhabitants and it would have no sense of normality about it. I am fully supportive of a creative solution to this problem but I don't think a cruise ship is the answer.”
The social housing minister, Paula Bennett, has said she would be concerned about the spread of disease on a cruise ship, but House said the risk was no greater than in an apartment complex or hotel.
“People would not be on the ship 24/7. They'd be getting off, going to work, living normal lives. But at least, at night, they could return to a bed and not a park in the middle of winter.”
Hurimoana Dennis, the chairman of Te Puea Marae which houses 37 people in emergency accommodation, fully supported the plan.
“It is obviously a short-term solution but I support any proposal that will get people out of cars and into something warmer and bigger,” he said.
“At the moment there is nowhere short term for people in desperate housing situations to go, and a cruise ship would allow the social agencies to catch up with families and help them while they have a roof over their head.”
The Ministry of Social Development was contacted for comment but has not yet responded.
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