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Grim predictions: National Party's tourism spokesman Todd McClay, left, and local MP Joseph Mooney outside an empty Church Street business this week

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

National’s tourism spokesman predicts a ‘‘cold, hard winter is coming’’ for Queenstown, unless the government ‘‘steps up’’.

Todd McClay, in Queenstown on Monday with local MP Joseph Mooney, tells Mountain Scene he was last in the Whakatipu just before last year’s general election.

McClay says not only does the town feel ‘‘much, much quieter’’, confidence levels are ‘‘much lower’’.

‘‘It feels very challenging.’’

McClay spoke with about 100 Queenstown Skal members, an international travel and tourism networking body, at Sofitel on Monday and says it’s clear the business community ‘‘want to know what the government’s plan is, and they need the certainty of timelines, so they can make decisions’’.

‘‘Very clearly we heard from the group they’re realistic — they know that the government can’t do everything, they just want them to do something, and [government] should show them the courtesy of talking about when, and under what conditions, they’d like to see the border opening so they can make decisions in their business lives and their own lives.

‘‘For the Tourism Minister to tell people to close, rather than, ‘I know it’s tough but I’m advocating to get the border open so you don’t have to rely upon the government and visitors will help you pay the bills’, is a really disappointing message.

‘‘I think a very hard, cold winter is coming for tourism unless the government steps up,’’ McClay says.

Mooney says he’s written to Nash several times ‘‘asking for transparency about the plan’’.

‘‘I haven’t had a sensible response.

‘‘I haven’t had a response to my latest letter [sent last week], and I have had no response about whether there is a plan, or what the plan is.

‘‘One operator in Te Anau [on Sunday] put it very bluntly — he said, ‘I can handle it if they don’t have a plan, I’ll close the doors tomorrow, but I need to know. At the moment I’m just trying to struggle through and keep my people employed’.’’

He says at risk is more than ‘‘businesses’’, but the fabric of communities.

‘‘We’re talking about people’s jobs, people being able to pay their mortgage, if they have to pull their kids out of school — it has a huge impact on the entire eco-system of the community.

‘‘[About 60] downtown businesses in Queenstown aren’t confident they’ll be open in the next three months.

‘‘That’s a lot of economic damage [and] a lot of damage to the community.’’

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz