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Confab: Opposition leader Judith Collins, right, meets up at Mitre 10 Mega's Columbus Cafe with local National Party candidate Joseph Mooney and Startup Queenstown Lakes CEO Olivia Wensley

By PHILIP CHANDLER

Queenstown should take advantage of being home to ‘‘some of the most interesting
and dynamic people in the world’’ to diversify its tourism-dependent economy.

So says new National Party leader Judith Collins, interviewed in the resort last Saturday
just seven weeks out from the general election.

‘‘Queenstown’s this wonderful place … but also a lot of people, particularly New Zealanders and others who have done well in life and have a real affinity to Queenstown, now have homes here, and I know many of them are really keen to be part of what we can do around [any alternative] industry.

‘‘There’s a great tech knowledge here, in particular, so I’m really keen to explore that a bit
more.

‘‘The trouble with tourism, as we know, is it’s always discretionary dollar, and you can be taken out at any time by something like a Covid, but that’s why it is good to have something else going as well, and I think not just something else but something really big.’’

Asked about ideas to help the beleaguered tourism industry, Collins doesn’t want to      pre-empt the release of National’s tourism policy.

‘‘We know that although inbound tourism at the moment is severely hit, the best thing we
can do is get the border sorted out.

‘‘And obviously if there’s a vaccine in the world as well that will help, but that is really
important that we can have confidence [in the border] so we don’t go in and out of lockdown every five minutes.

‘‘The other thing is with the [tourism] industry we’ve always got to remember the infrastructure that’s been built needs to be continuously maintained and kept up.’’

Collins says she’s also aware of the plight of local migrant workers, many facing uncertain
futures yet having trouble leaving the country — ‘‘we think we can fix that, no problem at all’’.

Asked about National having lost its last two local electorate MPs, Todd Barclay and Hamish Walker, after only one term apiece, she concedes it’s disappointing but adds there’s an ‘‘opportunity’’ with the party’s new Southland candidate, Joseph Mooney.

‘‘Joseph, like myself, is a lawyer, and so he’s had to deal with a lot of difficult situations in his past, as well, and I think he’ll be well suited for us.

‘‘This is one of the premier electorates for the National Party, and we must have our MP
here being absolutely focused on the job, and I can tell you, I’ll make sure that he is.’’

scoop@scene.co.nz

‘What I told Judith’

Startup Queenstown Lakes’ CEO says she found Judith Collins very receptive to options for technology investment in the resort.

Olivia Wensley, who was invited to meet the Opposition leader last Saturday, says ‘‘she’s asked me to submit some ideas to her about how we can make this happen’’.

One idea’s a new category of visa to allow the likes of Silicon Valley tech founders and workers to come here and establish companies ‘‘without being caught up in red tape’’.

Another option, she says, is a ‘skills transfer’ visa whereby a top tech talent could come here for a couple of years and train up New Zealand staff.

She also told Collins of her frustration over the level of government support her organisation’s receiving to help kickstart a tech industry here.

‘‘The overall Callaghan Innovation budget is $3 million for tech incubators and we get $60,000 out of that.

‘‘It’s actually a joke.’’

— PHILIP CHANDLER