The Government will be able to provision Airbnbs in the event of a national emergency to accommodate people who have been displaced.

This morning, the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MEDEM) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the company.

The agreement was a first of its kind in the Pacific region and only the second national-level partnership behind the United States.

MCDEM director Sarah Stuart-Black said while most people stay with friends and family if they've been displaced during a disaster, not everybody had that option.

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"Emergencies such as floods, fires and earthquakes often result in people needing to leave their homes, not knowing when they will be able to return."

She said it was important to ensure everyone had somewhere safe and comfortable to stay during an emergency.

Airbnb signed a similar deal with Auckland Council in 2016.

Today's agreement means people displaced by a disaster would be provided with accommodation free of charge.

Stuart-Black said the agreement would help to supplement existing emergency accommodation arrangements, particularly in large-scale disasters and evacuations.

She said connecting displaced people with willing Airbnb hosts can be quite a tricky exercise but the agreement provides a "simple and effective mechanism to make good use of available properties".

She thanked Airbnb for making this possible.

Bob Carr, an Airbnb Tourism Advisory Board member and former New South Wales Premier, said preparing for, and responding to, a natural disaster is a collective responsibility.

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"Everyone has a role to play in keeping the community safe and helping those in need," he said.

"This landmark partnership will help bolster New Zealand's emergency preparedness and response arrangements."

Over the past few weeks, Airbnb had activated the programme in response to the California Wildfires and New Zealand flooding.

Eastern Otago was hit with heavy rain in recent days – a number of bridges and roads have been closed due to the flooding in the area.

Emergency messages were sent to more than 8300 Airbnb hosts and guests in areas affected by flooding in the South Island.

Meanwhile, in California, more than 2200 hosts have offered housing to those in need.
More than 1800 people have been housed and emergency messages have been sent to more than 40,000 hosts and guests in the affected areas.