Ōpōtiki District Council will be working with accommodation providers over the coming months to ensure that seasonal workers and those in temporary accommodation are housed in safe and compliant buildings throughout the district.
Council's Planning and Regulatory Group Manager, Gerard McCormack, said that Council had a good working relationship with key employers and some of the larger temporary-accommodation providers around town. However, a number of additional accommodation providers have come to Council's attention who are accommodating workers employed under New Zealand's Recognised Seasonable Employer (RSE) visa programme and who may or may not have fully compliant worker accommodation.
"RSE workers are required to provide their accommodation details to MBIE [Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment] to get a visa for their stay. Earlier this year, MBIE shared that list with us so we could make sure we had all the local accommodation suppliers on our books and that their buildings met the Building Code.
"It is really important that workers have safe and sanitary accommodation – enough toilets and showers, enough space and facilities. Most importantly, they need to be safe with enough free and unobstructed exits in a fire.
"Many RSE workers won't know New Zealand's building requirements or what they can expect from seasonal worker accommodation – boarding houses, hostels and so on. And for some of those workers, because of COVID-19 there are other uncertainties around visas, work, and travel home. It is even more important to ensure that their accommodation is safe and healthy," Mr McCormack said.
Mr McCormack reiterated that Council will be working alongside accommodation providers to help them meet code where possible but noted that MBIE requires Council to ensure relevant enforcement action is taken to get buildings to a complaint standard.
"Where possible, we will help accommodation providers get up to speed with the Building Code, their legal obligations and what needs to be done to be compliant. Many will have received letters in the last week or so advising building owners that they may need Building Consent and Resource Consent to continue to provide RSE accommodation and we encourage owners to get in touch if they have any questions or need guidance on next steps," Mr McCormack said.