What Labour means for Queenstown

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Queenstown’s mayor hopes he’ll know how the new Labour-led government’s policies will affect the resort as soon as possible.

Jim Boult says he understands new ministers need to get their feet under the Cabinet table, but he’s already asked Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis for a meeting at his earliest convenience.

“I look forward to some good dialogue and a good working relationship.”

Boult says: “Given the growth we’ve got and given the challenges we’ve got, we need a strong relationship with practically every government department.”

In July, former Labour leader Andrew Little told Otago Daily Times building 1000 local houses and putting affordable and/or worker housing on the soon-to-be-vacated Wakatipu High site was its Queenstown priority, if elected.

Boult, however, understands Ngai Tahu’s already well-advanced on its own plans for affordable and itinerant worker housing for the site, which it has first dibs on.

However, he looks forward to hearing what other thoughts new Housing Minister Phil Twyford might have on addressing Queenstown’s lack of affordable housing.

“I’m delighted they’re thinking about it.”

Meanwhile, having not heard anything to the contrary, the mayor says his council’s continuing with the Special Housing Areas agreement it signed with the previous government.

Asked if he’s more hopeful the administration will allow Queenstown to impose a visitor levy, Boult notes Labour’s election policy was to introduce an extra border levy on international visitors to fund tourism facilities.

“I’m not sure that that would deliver what we’re looking for because it doesn’t matter to us whether a visitor is international or domestic, they still have the same effect on [our infrastructure], which is why we are keen on a visitor levy of some description.”

Noting that coalition partner NZ First’s policy was to return a portion of the GST to the regions where it’s generated, Boult says “if that is the case, then I’d be delighted to hear some detail on that”.

The fact the government’s already slapped a petrol tax on Auckland motorists gives him hope it can implement a policy for a specific region.

The mayor echoes the local chamber of commerce’s concern the new government’s plan to cut immigration could affect the resort’s migrant labour force of 3000-odd, who keep the tourism economy pumping.

That would “of great concern”, he says.

“We couldn’t survive without them.

“Also, I think the mix of nationalities brings something good to the town.”

On health, Boult reiterates his disappointment that the Southern District Health Board’s refusing to consider replacing Queenstown’s out-dated and dilapidated Lakes District Hospital.

“I’ll be interested in engaging with government to see what assistance we might get to achieve a hospital suitable for our needs.”

scoop@scene.co.nz