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Waiheke Island baches no longer just a family retreat as financialisation takes hold


A new study exploring the financialisation of holiday homes on Waiheke Island has found that Aucklanders’ views of their baches have shifted over time, with the idea of an idyllic family retreat being complicated by greatly increased property values.

University of Auckland researcher Professor Deborah Levy, along with fellow researchers Emeritus Professor Harvey Perkins and Dr Jane Horan, used Waiheke Island as a case study to explore how financialisation is playing out in the everyday lives of Aucklanders who own a holiday home on the island, which has experienced substantial property price increases over the past decade.

“The Kiwi bach used to be very much about simply investing in family and holidays,” Professor Levy said. “You didn’t worry if it was shabby, the paint was peeling, or the walls were wonky because it was an investment in weekends, holidays, children and family time. It wasn’t financial; you weren’t planning to rent it out a few weeks a year on Airbnb or sell it as soon as possible to make a decent gain. This is no longer the case.”

Financialisation, which takes place when housing is treated as a commodity – a vehicle for wealth and investment rather than a social asset – has been a cause for concern for decades and is deemed an issue of global importance by the UN.

The in-depth interviews conducted by the researchers revealed that while the idea of having a bach on Waiheke as a dedicated family space was a recurring theme, many long-term owners reluctantly started to view their holiday home as both a recreational and financial asset when faced with rapidly increasing property prices.

“Everyone we talked to said they didn’t buy their homes on Waiheke with the sole goal of making money. However, some who had bought their holiday homes more recently, mentioned that the option to rent out their places to vacationers for weekends or short stays was a key factor in their decision to buy,” Levy said.

As some interviewees became aware of the increasing prices attached to Waiheke properties, their views on their holiday homes shifted. “Our study reveals that although they still value and interpret their holiday houses as home and a place of recreation, issues associated with finance are now also often at the forefront of their minds,” Levy said.

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