Sneak peek inside NZ's first 'smart hotel' in Queenstown, where phones become keys

The first fully "smart hotel" has opened its doors in New Zealand, and true to its name you're going to need a smart phone to get in.

The $15 million mi-pad hotel in the heart of Queenstrown is a six-storey, 57 room, new hotel its makers describe as "the ultimate marriage of technology, sustainability, comfort and convenience".

The mia app also enabling guests to set temperatures and mood lighting in their room, request room service, or notify hotel staff they don’t want to be disturbed. Source: Supplied

What distinguishes the smart hotel is that most administrative and logistic functions with your stay will be made via your smart phone.

Guests booking their stay download the hotel’s personal app "mia" and their smartphone then becomes a room key.

This means that the traditional physical check-ins and check outs are a thing of the past.

The mia app also enabling guests to set temperatures and mood lighting in their room, request room service, or notify hotel staff they don’t want to be disturbed.

Access to the hotel is available 24/7 thanks to the technology.

The mia app then serves as a kind of "personal digital concierge", say its makers MIPAD Holdings, delivering the latest information on events, activities or offers in Queenstown.

The mi-pad hotel was conceived by Queenstown property developer Lewis Gdanitz and is the product of three years of work, and 15 years of travelling research. Source: Supplied

The mi-pad hotel was conceived by Queenstown property developer Lewis Gdanitz and is the product of three years of work, and 15 years of travelling research.

Mi-pad hotel manager Kylie Hogan has 20 years' experience in international resort management, and says she hasn't seen anything like this before.

"We're offering an innovative, connected hotel experience for smart travellers who'd prefer to spend their hard-earned dollars on experiences rather than pay over the odds for accommodation," she says. 

The mi-pad is the first "smart hotel" in New Zealand and is located in the centre of Queenstown. Source: Supplied

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Exclusive: Nearly half a million Kiwis owe social development ministry $1.5 billion for loans

The Government agency in charge of taking care of New Zealand's most vulnerable is putting hundreds of thousands of people into debt.

The Ministry of Social Development has handed out $1.5 billion in loans, interest free, to 509,571 people for things like dentistry, school supplies and housing.

Social Development Minister Carmel Sepuloni said a large amount of that money is over payments, "and then it's also hardship and then it's also fraud".

This comes as the Government cracks down on loan sharks.

Social agencies argue Work and Income is no better, given benefits remain too low to cover the basics.

"They end up having to repay money every week which means they can't afford to eat or meet their weekly costs, pushing them into shark loans," said Ricardo Menendez March of Auckland Action Against Poverty.

1 NEWS spoke to an Auckland mother of three who is struggling to make ends meet. She gets $589 on the benefit.

"I'm lucky enough if I can live week to week on what I receive, especially being in emergency housing," she said.

So when her car broke down she asked Work and Income for a loan, and again when she needed to go to the dentist.

She's also been able to borrow money from the state to secure housing and furniture.

"I owe over $23,000," she said.

The woman was expected to pay back $80 a week on her loan.

National says it would consider changing the law to wipe the debt.

"That's a policy that we'll be having a look at and exploring over the next period of time," Louise Upston, National's Social Development spokesperson said. 

Ms Sepuloni says her advisory group charged with looking at the welfare system will investigate debt.

But she stands by the decision to hand out loans.

"Access to a washing machine or a fridge are things that people may need to pay back," she said.

"And I think they're really important measures to have in place through MSD because you can actually get that type of advance for those things in a way where you're not paying huge amounts of interest on top of that."

The Auckland mother of three would like a pay rise. 

"Poverty is real in New Zealand, government just doesn't see it, " she said.

She's hoping to have her debt cleared too. 

But the minister says unless there's been a mistake, like an overpayment, she and others will be expected to pay the money back.

The Ministry of Social Development has handed out $1.5 billion in loans to half a million people to pay for the likes of the dentist and a house to live. Source: 1 NEWS

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Hawke's Bay growing giant emphasising flexible schedules to increase Kiwi staff numbers

The Government is urging growers to look for labour in their own backyards and one growing giant in Hawke's Bay believes with the right approach, it's easily done.

Solo mother of three Dani Gibson was on the benefit for six years before she found a job that suited her.

She told 1 NEWS it was impossible to find work which fit in with her kids' lives before working at growing giant Turners and Growers.

Ms Gibson is one of 204 workers that have been working at Turners and Growers in the last year after coming from the Ministry of Social Development.

It comes as part of a Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme - a policy allowing horticulture and viticulture industries to recruit workers from overseas for seasonal work when there aren't enough local workers.

Turners and Growers labour market manager Maurice Wilson told 1 NEWS, "In the past, we wouldn't have, but now we really cater to the needs of the individuals because we realise without people, we can't grow our business."

The company now emphasises flexible work hours and employee benefits like healthcare, which Ms Gibson says provides much-needed reassurance for her and her family.

"It feels good knowing that your kids are fine and that you've got a good job behind you as well that understand that," she said.

At peak season, 70 per cent of Turners and Growers' seasonal workforce is from MSD and locals - an example that the Minister of Social Development Carmel Sepuloni wants others to set as well.

Ms Sepuloni told 1 NEWS during her visit to Hawke's Bay that the programme was about "making sure we are looking at our domestic labour market first and how we can ensure that we are giving New Zealanders jobs and that those jobs work for them in terms of the terms and conditions".

However, there are concerns that there will still be a working shortfall even with more locals added to the workforce.

Around 11,000 seasonal workers are brought into New Zealand through the RSE scheme annually, but the industry says with dropping unemployment and one million apple trees being planted every year, that number will have to increase to keep up.

Apples and Pears NZ's Alan Pollard believes the increase is inevitable.

"We only have a defined harvest window so the fruit has to come off at that time so more fruit means more people needed to pick the fruit," Mr Pollard said.

The sector is aiming to be worth $10 billion by 2020, but Ms Sepuloni hopes the growth can benefit unemployed New Zealanders.

"There are still people that are seeking work and we need to work with them to make sure they are able to take up these jobs," Ms Sepuloni said.

In the last year, Turners and Growers in Hawke’s Bay have employed 204 workers from the Ministry of Social Development’s books. Source: 1 NEWS


1 NEWS political team discuss what happens for Simon Bridges, once leak investigation is finally released

The 1 NEWS team discuss the potential aftermath for leader Simon Bridges once the investigation into the National Party leaker is released.

It comes after the Opposition leader launched an investigation to look into who leaked Mr Bridges' expenses. 

Mr Bridges' MP expenses were released earlier than scheduled last week, with $113,973 spent on travel and accommodation between April and June.

Yesterday, an independent review found no evidence that staff in the office of Parliament's speaker, Speaker Trevor Mallard, or Parliamentary Service finance and corporate staff released details. 

Read: Jessica Mutch McKay's analysis on the Simon Bridges leak. 

A weekly catch up with 1 NEWS’ political reporters about the stories they’ve been covering. Source: 1 NEWS

The 1 NEWS team discuss the potential aftermath for leader Simon Bridges once the investigation into the National Party leaker is released. Source: 1 NEWS