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By MATTHEW MCKEW

Queenstown faces the risk of becoming a retirement village, the mayor’s warning, amidst the latest slump in the resort’s economy.

Jobseeker claims are up almost 1300% from where they stood before the Covid-19 outbreak, peaking with 525 claimants in May.

The school holidays saw improved fortunes for Queenstown, but when Auckland moved
back into lockdown last week, tourism here took an expected nosedive.

Boult says accommodation providers have told him ‘‘numbers have dropped off dramatically in the past couple of days’’.

He wants to see the country get back to Alert Level 1 as soon as possible, and says a booming events industry, backed with government money, can trigger a recovery in Queenstown.

‘‘We will get Kiwis to come to our part of the world two or three times a year on holiday, but we need to get them to come more often.

‘‘Holding cultural and sporting events is the way to achieve it.’’

He warns the falling jobseeker claims in June and July, when they dropped to 405, may have come from temporary work.

‘‘Some people have left town — I would caution any optimism around that drop.’’

He says while house sales and prices are staying strong, conversations with real estate agents point towards families ‘‘moving away and being replaced by older folk’’.

‘‘While it’s good to keep the house prices up, we also don’t want to become a large retirement home.’’

Today Boult’s urging councillors to sign a letter to the Commerce Commission to fend off price hikes by power firm Aurora Energy.

The draft says the average salary in Queenstown last year was 12% below the national figure, against a backdrop of high living costs.

The mayor says the hardship and ‘‘angst in the community’’ post- Covid-19 could now drive
people away.

Boult: ‘‘I wouldn’t want to push the panic button at this stage, because I think a recovery will come, but all those things concern me.’’

Red Cross’ project lead for visitor care, Rachel O’Connor, says they’ve seen an ‘‘increase’’ in
migrants accessing financial support in the past fortnight.

By Tuesday, 773 people on temporary visas in Otago had been given a total of $230,000 worth of vouchers for food and other support since July 1.

And in February, 422 people were accessing the accommodation supplement from the government — that increased to 1031 by July, which Boult suggests is a result of reduced hours, pay cuts and job losses.

matthew.mckew@scene.co.nz