New Zealand ministers team up with Airbnb to help disaster victims

New Zealand: New Zealand’s civil defence ministry has linked up with Airbnb to help hosts make their homes available to people who may have been displaced due to a disaster.

Airbnb app users will also be able to receive emergency messages regardless of whether they are hosts and guests.

The former Australian minister of foreign affairs Bob Carr, who now sits on Airbnb’s tourism advisory board, flew over to New Zealand to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU), which will enable emergency managers to use Airbnb during an emergency.

Carr said: “It makes possible mobilising the good will of Airbnb hosts. Airbnb makes nothing out of it, nor does the host, but they use an existing structure,” he said.

Sarah Stuart-Black, director of the ministry of civil defence and emergency management, also signed the MOU at parliament in New Zealand.

Stuart-Black said: “We have such a strong history of New Zealanders helping New Zealanders, of being available when the chips are down, to helping strangers. This is another mechanism where people who have Airbnb facilities available can choose to help out during an emergency.

“I think it’s building on the culture that we already have in New Zealand in a different way, to apply a good will element of helping those affected,” she added.

Hosts are not obligated to put their property up and those who are displaced will only be directed to Airbnb by civil defence teams if there is insufficient emergency shelter available.

This follows the news that Airbnb has been used in California where wildfires have destroyed homes across the state.
Carr said the idea had first been mooted when Hurricane Sandy hit New York in 2012.

Mr Carr added the Airbnb platform was also used to distribute messages this month during floods in New Zealand’s South Island.