Precarity in paradise: Older people’s experience of renting on Waiheke Island, New Zealand

Authors: Robin Kearns*, The University of Auckland, Laura Bates, University of Auckland, Janine Wiles, University off Auckland, Tara Coleman, University of Auckland
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Social Geography, Australia and New Zealand
Keywords: New Zealand, Aging, Islands, Renting, Wellbeing, Precarity
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Estherwood, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Homeownership has been central to notions of the ‘kiwi dream’ for New Zealanders. However, unaffordability is a current concern, especially in Auckland where there is increasing recognition of the challenges faced by renters in unsafe, insecure and generally precarious circumstances. We report on older people’s experiences of renting on Waiheke Island, an offshore part of metropolitan Auckland that is increasingly the domain of luxurious second homes and promoted as an ‘island paradise’. Using census data, survey questions and phenomenologically-inspired qualitative research methods we ask: What does it mean to be an older renter on Waiheke Island? Drawing on two phases of fieldwork, we reflect on 13 older renters’ experiences of precarity and resilience within this island context. Results indicate that older Waiheke renters experience intersecting and interacting layers of precarity, often related to housing, health, financial and personal circumstances. Their potential to age in place can be complicated and compromised by these uncertainties, as well as by the challenges inherently associated with islandness (e.g., distance/isolation from mainland services and healthcare, tourism-related infrastructural pressures, and changes to community/island character with population change). We conclude that Waiheke can be seen as a microcosm of a wider range of settings where aging is experienced within an overheated housing market and a commodified landscape of tourism promotion. Within these settings experiencing precarity can seriously hinder older people’s ability to age well in place.

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