Queenstown mayor Jim Boult. PICTURE: PETER MCINTOSH

It will come as no surprise to anyone when I say that tourism, the mainstay of our district’s economy, has been monumentally challenged by multiple lockdowns and isolation flowing from Covid-19.

The dollars and cents are one thing, but the personal toll is another.

I saw two extremes of this in the past week.

The first in the form of a robust, smart, local tourism operator reduced to tears as he contemplated the possibility of 2022 without international visitors.

The second was a scene at the arrival of the first flight in from Auckland in 117 days, where I spoke to a man with a bunch of roses in his hand.

He told me he was there to meet his wife whom he had not seen for four months, due to
the fact she was caught in the Auckland lockdown.

These two extremes epitomise the human toll outside of the direct effects of the virus itself.

In some shape or form, we have all been affected.

It serves as an important reminder of the need to support and be kind to each other throughout these trying times.

We can be reasonably sure that most businesses, all health and education providers and certainly all council staff have had more than their fair share of pressure, logistical headaches, staffing shortages, abuse, family separations and isolation from loved ones in
the past 18 months.

Let’s all ensure that, particularly at this festive time of the year, we show a bit of patience, kindness and understanding.

In particular, let’s consider those on the front line and looking after our community in the form of St John, our fire brigades, and police.

There’s uncertainty and anxiety in the community with many visitors arriving and the possibility of Covid rearing its ugly head again locally.

In that respect, I think the Southern District Health Board is now as ready as possible should that occur.

We have additional testing facilities, security of significant isolation properties and transport if needed.

And, we’ve been vaccinated.

What an outstanding community we are!

We called on you to be 95% vaccinated by Christmas time and two weeks ahead of schedule the SDHB told us we reached that.

You’ve done your bit and told the country loud and clear that when it comes to looking after each other and our visitors, we’re willing to do what it takes.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to the wonderful staff of our Lakes District Hospital.

While we might think the facility itself is wanting, the staff there certainly are not.

They face the need to be ready for Covid-positive patients, but at the same time carry on their normal functions, including the massively-busy A&E unit and, of course, the ongoing primary maternity facility.

Isolation of all these activities has required some innovative thinking and some last-minute modifications to the buildings.

Thank you to the staff there.

Above all at this time of the year, let’s remember that this is a time for families.

Many of you, like Karen and I, will be welcoming loved ones back home for Christmas and New Year, while others will be Zooming, Skyping and FaceTiming to see those familiar faces.

I hope that in whatever form it takes, family time fills your cup full of renewed energy and positivity.

Whether you are relaxing or making hay while the sun shines, let’s make the most of the holiday season and get ourselves as prepared as we can be for whatever 2022 may bring.

Jim Boult is Queenstown’s mayor