OPINION: So summer has officially come to an end.
Not so long ago there was a time when locals could take a moment’s pause between the hectic summer and the busy winter ski season as autumn was considered the quiet shoulder season.
It seems such a pause no longer exists. It’s all go here, all year round.
New Zealanders and international tourists alike continue to flock to the Wakatipu Basin in record numbers and spend record amounts of money as they share in our culture, natural beauty and world-class attractions and operators.
In January alone, domestic and international visitors spent $252 million in Queenstown – a 10 per cent increase on January 2016.
Following on from a busy Christmas and New Year period, passenger numbers at Queenstown Airport also increased 13 per cent in January to 185,479, with total passengers in the year to January reaching a new record of 1.8 million – up 17 per cent on the previous year.
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know I’ve been a strong advocate for increased investment in infrastructure in Queenstown and, for the past two-and-a-half years, I’ve openly talked in support of a visitor levy.
Queenstown is one of the biggest and brightest jewels in the NZ tourism crown, and it’s unreasonable to think that our 20,000-odd residents should have to foot the bill for the response to this growth.
I continue to receive correspondence and representations from tourism operators, other businesses and members of the public calling for the government to look at visitor levy options.
I’ve been strongly advocating this to my colleagues in Wellington, and on the dozens of ministerial visits I’ve hosted here over the past two-and-a-half years.
This is the most consistent message our ministers are receiving and I will continue to fight for increased investment in our regional infrastructure – whatever that might look like.
Infrastructure is a key driver of the economy and a solid infrastructure platform makes a significant difference in everyone’s lives.
It powers our homes and businesses, moves people and goods from A to B, and connects us with the rest of the world.
There is no silver bullet, but progress is being made.
The new two-lane bridge, the completion of Hawthorne Drive, BP roundabout improvements, the development of a quality park-and-ride system and improvements to public transport options will go a long way to ease some of these pressures.
I’m also hot on the NZ Transport Agency to bring forward the double-laning of State Highway 6, from Grant Road to Kawarau Falls, to be in sync with the completion of the new bridge and roundabout improvements.
I’m looking forward to another productive year working with Queenstown’s council, the agency and other bodies and businesses to make progress.
We will only solve Queenstown’s problems and address opportunities by working together.
To that end, I also encourage you to get in touch with your feedback: email at todd.barclayMP@parliament.govt.nz or pop into my Frankton office at 1085 Frankton Road to make an appointment.
Todd Barclay is the Clutha-Southland MP