I entered two words in Google on Tuesday night, just to see how hard it is to find out the answer to something.
“Queenstown issues” was the search.
About 862,000 results popped up in 0.47 seconds.
Admittedly, they’re not all relevant.
The very first search result, though, is perhaps the most telling.
Headline: “Dealing with ‘big city’ issues in CBD”.
Intro: “The manager of Queenstown’s CBD says the town is in the middle of a ‘$1 billion transformation phase’ and its community needs ‘big city pants to sort it out’.”
So, it was with some surprise and frustration, actually, I left a Chamber of Commerce business lunch on Tuesday afternoon having listened to the man who controls this country’s purse strings.
Grant Robertson seems like a genuinely nice bloke. Easy going, down to earth, amenable.
He studied in Dunedin, and from what I can ascertain he’s enjoyed himself in Queenstown before.
But now he holds the key to this country’s coffers and, somewhat gobsmackingly, it sounds like he thinks we don’t have a plan to deal with our issues around key infrastructure and trying to ensure we keep a vibrant community, with a booming economy that’s a place for all types of people to call home.
He’s “sympathetic” to the situation we, like other communities in our fine country, are in when it comes to the dreaded day before payday conundrum … not having enough money in the bank account to pay for what we need.
He’s “open to the conversation” about finding different funding streams to help us.
All positive so far, right?
But then he said this, and my slack jaw set in.
“It’s all very well to generate money; what’s it for?”
I’m sorry … what did he just say?
He went on to ask what the infrastructure plan was for our region and how was it integrated.
Rightly, he says, you don’t want to create a housing plan without a transport plan and you don’t want to make a transport plan if the “horizontal infrastructure” (Google says that’s roads, bridges, water, stormwater and sewerage pipes) isn’t sorted.
Robertson wants to do that “piece of work” with our council and then, over time, develop ways to find other ways to help fund it.
Again, I’m sorry … what did he just say?
I appreciate when you get a new job there’s a fair bit you have to get your head around and it takes a minute, especially when that job has you holding the proverbial Eftpos card for New Zealand in your wallet.
But are you actually kidding me?
There’s this tiny thing our council’s been working on for, oh, a lot longer than Labour’s been in power.
Council staff have been working harder than any of us can actually comprehend to put together a wee document called the long-term plan.
It weighs a fair whack (1.04kg) and, if I’m honest, it’s some pretty heavy duty reading.
But, if you had the time to read through all 410 pages of it, you’d have a pretty clear idea of what we need the money for.
In fact, if you read the consultation document (40 pages), you’d know.
You’d probably also know how we’re planning to spend it – where, doing what, when and why.
That is, as the name states, The Plan.
It was adopted last month after consultation with this community and hearings.
Further, it’s not like we’re some back country hick town that’s been sitting here quietly, saying nothing to anyone, about our struggles.
We’ve been banging on the same drum for years now.
So I’m hella confused about Robertson’s assertion we don’t yet seem to know what we need money for.
Even more so when he talks about the “assiduous” (it’s a great word, btw) Jim Boult and the regular conversations the pair of them have had about our issues.
Issues that have been raised publicly for a really, really long time.
So I asked him outright: “Have you had a look at the Queenstown town centre masterplan?”
It is, FYI, a pretty critical part of that 10-year spend – $325 million of work, detailed, and timelined – so you’d hope the answer was yes.
“Um, I’ve seen it as part of some of the discussions we had early on with Jim.”
Minister, may I just offer you, respectfully, a piece of advice.
Use my friend Google and have a wee nosey at our plan.
You’re a busy man, I know, but even if you just read the first two pages of Volume 1 (it’s a message from Boult and council boss Mike Theelen) that, good sir, may provide a tiny bit of insight and help to answer your question about what we need the funding for.
The other 408 pages provide the detail of how we want to spend it.
Then, maybe, we could speed this thing up a little bit.
Rather than going back and having the same conversations with Jim and his crew – conversations this community’s actually been having since Labour was last in power – you might be able to answer the questions we’ve been asking for a torturously long time.
How are you going to help us, and when?
- Tracey Roxburgh