A long-standing bone of contention over which anniversary holiday Queenstown should observe has been dug up again.
Confusion over why parking was free in the resort last Monday was the first sign of an issue that refuses to go away.
Whether businesses and schools should align with Otago’s anniversary (observed on March 21) or Southland’s (observed on March 29 as Easter Tuesday) has been debated for years.
Chamber of Commerce boss Ann Lockhart says the observation of anniversary holidays is “all over the place” in the resort and wants Queenstown’s council to endorse one day.
The Wakatipu basin may come under the Otago Regional Council, but it is part of the Clutha-Southland electorate. Queenstown schools observe Southland’s anniversary on Easter Tuesday, as do the majority of the resort’s businesses.
But pre-schools took an anniversary holiday on Monday, while residents and visitors found some businesses unexpectedly closed. Some restaurants and cafes imposed holiday surcharges.
Lockhart says asking pre-schools to follow schools and observe the Southland anniversary would be one practical step towards standardisation.
“The issue from the employers’ point of view is if people have pre-schoolers and kids in school, they have to take two days off work to look after them if they don’t have other child care.”
A council-endorsed anniversary holiday would set a “best practice” that businesses could apply in their employment contracts.
Mayor Vanessa van Uden says if businesses were keen to standardise the observance of an anniversary day across the district, they could approach the council for support through the Queenstown and Wanaka Chambers of Commerce.
But the council did not have the ability to mandate one day, and it was up to individual businesses and the Ministry of Education to decide.
One of the resort’s biggest employers, New World supermarket owner Anthony King, says council guidance on a preferred day would go a long way to resolving the issue.
“Over time, it could become the norm.
“There are a lot of reasons why Easter Tuesday would be good, and there are a lot of businesses in Queenstown that have already chosen that date.
“But the converse argument is that we’re in Otago so we should choose the Otago anniversary.”
Council comms boss Michele Poole says most of its staff observed the Otago anniversary on December 27.
But parking wardens took a holiday on Monday because their services were needed every day during the busy Christmas holiday period.
The public library closed on Monday because it was aligned with the Central Otago district libraries, Poole says.