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The last resort -MPlan thesis explores Airbnb impact in Queenstown

Friday 8 November 2019 2:37pm

Sam McGough submits her MPlan thesis. (Queenstown image: Lawrence Murry)

Geography Master of Planning candidate Sam McGough recently submitted her (MPlan) thesis entitled “Managing the Impacts of Airbnb: A Case Study of Queenstown, New Zealand”.

M ThompsonFawcett Staff Photo
Professor Thompson-Fawcett

Geography Head of School Professor Michelle Thompson-Fawcett praised the qualitative study, which sits in the "broader human geography field."

"Every few years the School will have a candidate who researches in Queenstown, but no one has done a topic quite like this before; it’s pretty cutting edge and there's very limited literature on the topic to date anywhere."

What did your thesis discuss?

The basis of my thesis was to investigate the impact of Airbnb in the context of Queenstown, which was chosen as the case study because it's a prominent tourist hub. It's already facing infrastructure constraints in facilitating increasing visitor numbers. The thesis sought to also investigate current and possible regulatory and non-regulatory approaches to managing the effects of Airbnb.

What were your key findings about managing the impact of Airbnb in Queenstown?

The research found that there are an array of positive impacts associated with Airbnb in the Queenstown context, including the profitable opportunity it provides for local residents and the contribution it makes to the tourism industry and the diversification of the accommodation market. The research also found Airbnb to exacerbate housing affordability and availability issues and in some cases, negatively impacting on neighbourhood character and resident feelings of safety.

The research assessed adverse impacts against current regulation to evaluate which issues are directly addressed under Queenstown’s regulation for residential visitor accommodation and which issues are forfeited.

Any bigger observations for other centres in NZ?

Queenstown’s current regulation is in its infancy stage as it was only implemented in March this year. Once the regulation comes under review, the effectiveness of the regulation will be assessed. This research can help to inform Council of existing issues while recommending alternative management strategies in regulating home-sharing platforms. It's also beneficial to any local authority looking to how to regulate the platform and gain an understanding of the issues persisting in the New Zealand context.

What got you interested in the MPlan?

Travel sparked my interest in planning; I’ve always loved experiencing what a new city had to offer. I really enjoy seeing a vision come to life and planning is a vital component in project development. Urban design and development are critical in creating positive spaces for people and the environment, and I was really keen to enter a discipline where I could be involved in such projects.

Why did you choose this area of study for your thesis topic?

It was really important to me to choose a research topic that is relevant, interesting and kept me passionate throughout the whole process. The peer-2-peer network really intrigued me with new wave companies like Airbnb and Uber revolutionising the way we travel. The platforms sit outside of traditional planning processes, posing issues for regulators worldwide. Media attention often focuses on the negative externalities generated by Airbnb, however I wanted to bring to light all of the beneficial aspects associated with the platform too. Regulatory efforts require a balancing exercise between positive and negative effects, which formed the basis of this research.

What next?

My five years in Dunedin has finally come to a close. I'm looking forward to taking the next few weeks off and am looking to secure a job in the New Year.