We won’t just sit down and shut up, Minister

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There’s a reason Parting Shots aren’t a weekly occurrence.

We kinda feel it’s best to wait till you get itchy fingers (aka blind rage) before you put phalanges to keyboard.

And by jingos am I there.

For nigh on 12 months I’ve been watching this community rally.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the face of the untold unknowns 2020 delivered to us, we came together to support each other.

I’ve watched business owners pull rabbits out of hats and have been in awe of your  innovation, courage and strength.

I’ve watched you ‘reimagine’, ‘reinvent’ and ‘pivot’ to the best of your ability, virtually overnight.

I’ve watched you in restaurants and bars, cafes and retail outlets smile, be genuinely warm with customers, thank them for visiting and, if they’re from out of town, thank them for choosing to help us.

I’ve watched you make heartbreaking decisions to reduce staffing levels to, quite frankly,
unsustainable levels, reduce opening hours and, in increasing circumstances, close doors
completely.

I know many of you go home and struggle to sleep because you’re so worried about how long this can go on for, but you’re determined to give it everything you’ve got, in part, because you’ve got staff who are relying on you to keep their own heads above water.

But somehow, you’ve stayed positive in the face of potentially losing everything.

You are inspiring.

And all the while as I’ve been watching our town unite, I’ve watched our ‘team of five million’ disintegrate.

That whole ‘be kind’ message lasted a hot minute and now, in some corners, it’s a thing of  the past.

Particularly as it pertains to us.

It feels like if Queenstown was an island the rest of the country would have already voted, informing us we are the weakest link and given us a push as we floated away.

Look, there will always be people in life who don’t like you, and that’s OK.

There is no rule saying we have to be besties with everyone.

It was all well and good when this town was helping the country’s economy — pre-Covid, tourists who came to Queenstown spent about $2.3 billion a year. BILLION.

Let me be very, very clear — the vast majority of that money didn’t stay in Queenstown, friends.

It went to the government.

Who used it to help other New Zealanders.

But as soon this community needs help?

Different story.

We are, it seems, on our own.

What’s absolutely astounding to me, though, are the comments being made from far and wide across this country about this community, and the people in it.

By and large, the comments are, at best, uninformed.

At worst they’re ignorant.

Quite frankly, I couldn’t care less about what people who haven’t been here in the past 12 months, or in fact ever, or have no intention of coming — but are somehow authorities on what we should be doing, or should have done — think.

There are, however, a couple of people in our country who should know better.

I was gobsmacked (legit slack jaw) last week when I heard our new Tourism Minister’s response to our plight.

‘‘You’re going to have to have some very hard conversations,’’ Stuart Nash told The AM Show.

Shut. The. Front. Door.

What, exactly, does he think we — and everyone in the tourism industry up and down our fine country — have been doing for almost 12 months?

It’s not like we’ve been shy and retiring about our predicament, either.

Our mayor, Jim Boult, has stayed true to a promise he made in Mountain Scene last March, to ‘‘bust my backside to get the best possible outcome for this district’’.

And, increasingly, new voices are being added to the chorus — not all of them people who  live here, either, but others who understand the importance of Queenstown.

It is, you’ll remember, a place Tourism New Zealand, a Crown entity, has used to market our country — for the benefit of the greater good — to international visitors for decades.

Nash, while new to tourism, also holds the small business portfolio, and has done since Labour was elected, and the economic and regional development portfolio.

So please forgive me if I had hoped for something a little more insightful than telling us to have ‘‘very hard conversations’’.

The thing is, here, I get the feeling people feel like they’re running out of options.

The truth of it is when those international visitors do return (side note, just re: that announcement before Christmas about a trans-Tasman bubble in the ‘‘first quarter’’, has anyone called Tui yet, or should I?) there’s got to be something here for them.

That’s what our business people are fighting for.

To ensure when the borders do open, Queenstown can con tribute meaningfully to this
country’s economic recovery.

They’re also fighting for our community.

Stu, we don’t need to be told by you to have the tough talks.

We need you to do what it is a Tourism Minister should do.

Represent the industry and, in a crisis, go in to bat for it.

We, in Queenstown, will not go quietly into the night, Stu.

We will fight until there’s nothing left in the tank, and we’ve exhausted every last option there is.

It’d just be really nice to feel like you, at least, had our back.

ed@scene.co.nz