More than just tourism’

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A proposed district-wide economic futures agency is expected to ensure Queenstown has more than just tourism as its main industry. 

A group of Queenstowners last week voted in favour of getting seed funding to explore the possibility of setting up an agency specifically targeting local economic development. 

The recommendation was made by a volunteer economic taskforce, set up by community initiative Shaping Our Future. 

Shaping Our Future – and the proposed economic agency – centres on the importance of diversification of industries, chairman David Kennedy says. 

“Tourism is the cornerstone of the district. It’s not about reducing the focus on tourism, it’s more about exploring the opportunities for broader economic development, and also those opportunities that might be complementary to what tourism brings. 

“As we know with tourism, it only takes a major event to pose a risk to the industry. It’s really about having several eggs in the basket.” 

The agency is still a while away from being formed – what’s needed first is funding from Queenstown Lakes District Council to pay for someone to undertake a large-scale study of what’s needed. 

“It’s really about scoping out what might be relevant for the Lakes District environment,” Kennedy says. 

“An economic development model for another part of New Zealand might not actually meet what we require here.” 

A recommendation by the taskforce that suggested Destination Queenstown and the local Chamber of Commerce could contribute to paying for the agency is premature, Kennedy adds. 

“I think that lies down the track, which is really part of the scoping. It will be looking at funding models in more detail as well.” 

Kennedy believes the Shaping Our Future initiative – which gets the community involved in creating a long-term vision for the district – is working well. It has recently set up an office focusing on bringing events to the area. 

“For a lot of people it’s slower than perhaps what they expected, but it’s all being done by volunteers. 

“I think we have made some good steps and what’s happened in the events sector in the whole district has highlighted that,” Kennedy says.