Former foreign minister Bob Carr has signed an agreement with the New Zealand government which will see Airbnb hosts across the pond open their homes in times of emergency.
The former NSW premier, who now sits on Airbnb’s tourism advisory board, flew into New Zealand to sign a memorandum with the country’s emergency management director, Sarah Stuart-Black.
It decrees that in times of disaster – such as major earthquakes or floods – Airbnb hosts will make their properties available to displaced people.
The Airbnb app will also be made available to share emergency messages to all hosts and guests.
Mr Carr said it enabled emergency managers to utilise Airbnb during an extreme event and tap into the generous spirit of property owners.
“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.
The understanding does not make it compulsory for hosts to offer up their property, and those displaced will only be directed to Airbnb by civil defence teams when there isn’t enough emergency shelter available.
“We have such a strong history of New Zealanders helping New Zealanders, of being available when the chips are down, to helping strangers,” Ms Stuart-Black said.
“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.”
Mr Carr said the idea was first tried during Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York in 2012, and Airbnb is currently being used in California to help the victims of unprecedented wildfires.
The platform was also used to distribute messages during NZ’s recent South Island floods.
“Airbnb wants to be part of a citizenship that has people looking after one another in a disaster like that,” said Mr Carr.