Parting Shot: Govt needs to polish tourism jewel


We’re often told Queenstown’s the jewel in New Zealand’s tourism crown.

Images of the resort’s soaring mountains and glittering lakes are splashed over government-funded marketing campaigns.

Whether it’s 100% Pure or Middle Earth - people want to come to this country because of Queenstown.

So we’re doing the country a favour. Maybe it’s time the country did something for us.

Because as they said in Bad Boys II, this shit just got real. For tourism, I mean.

The media headline is that it’s poised to overtake dairy as our biggest export earner.

Which is first doesn’t matter. The fact it’s on a level footing shows how important tourism is to the country.

And it’s Queenstown doing the heavy lifting.

Two million tourists a year, an airport ram-jammed with passengers, clogged streets, creaking water and sewerage systems and a housing market that rivals Auckland.

Yep, we’ve got it all. The longer you stay the more you realise how hard it is.

Add up housing, childcare and grocery bills and you’re not much better off than Auckland. Add heating and it’s a damned struggle.

I’m not just talking about minimum wage-earners.

Families with two working parents are searching for a better life elsewhere.

And it’s not just the big cities - people are heading to Cromwell, Gore and Invercargill for lifestyle reasons.

Companies are not just struggling to retain staff, they’re finding it hard to replace them. Again, these are not seasonal jobs but professional firms.

Look at me - I’m telling you what you already know. But I’m coming to my point.

Add all these things together and you get a marked difference in the town’s social fabric. Long-termers generally hold their heads above water while those at the bottom end of the socio-economic scale wash in and out of town, struggling in both directions.

When I was on the Earnslaw the other day I imagined ferries servicing gated communities of the “rich” - while Queenstown’s disaffected cause chaos and disorder beyond their patrolled borders.

It doesn’t have to be like this. It’s time to admit Queenstown’s issues have relevance not just for the 20,000-odd who live here but the whole country.

The local council is already talking to the government on several fronts - housing, a bed tax, convention centre funding, transport issues.

Let’s bring it together.

The government should help. I don’t mean handouts - but any population-based funding is a farce.

The housing accord is a start. Bed tax? No-brainer, if it’s done right.

Transport - free buses from the airport to town at the very least, with a subsidy enjoyed in cities like Dunedin.

Housing - turn the high school grounds in Gorge Road into six-storey apartment blocks.

The council has a tough job. The big-wigs in Wellington need to help them out.