Parting Shot: It’s time for Destination Not Queenstown


You can imagine the scene in the Disneyland staff bar after a long day.

In grumps Goofy, takes off his big dog costume head, sits down next to Mickey, sparks up a fag and starts bitching about all the little shits who have been pulling on his tail all day.

Snow White chimes in, halfway through her fourth pint, saying the bosses shouldn’t let so many into the park.

One of the dwarf actors, shit-faced off a pint, says: “It’s unsustainable. I got trampled this morning - I’m not happy.”

To which they all raise sloshing pints of beer and respond in grand unison “which one are you, then!?”

This is what it feels like as a local in Queenstown at the moment. Like we’re all grumpy actors behind the scenes of a tourism industry dream, wallowing in gallows humour about the direction of the town.

Where is Queenstown-land going to be in five or 10 years?

It almost doesn’t bear thinking about. The Business Ministry forecasts nationally the number of international visitors will grow to about 3.8 million visitors by 2021. That’s up from 2.9 million in 2014 - growing by six per cent a year.

Most of them come to town.

Queenstown saw 2.3 million visitors in the 12 months to May 2016 and ‘welcomed’ more than a million domestic visitors.

There’s at least half-a-dozen new hotels in the pipeline and Porter-opolis planned for Frankton, with its gondola, convention centre and Death Star.

And more tourists means ever more Disney characters in the bar.

By 2021, thousands more houses will have been built to accommodate them through the SHA process.

Long-resisted urban sprawl will become a reality, while Gorge Road and the streets at the bottom of Skyline hill promise a high-rise dystopian nightmare.

But we’ve begged for this, begged for ‘affordable’ housing, so can’t complain.

I suppose unless Ray White sells them all to the Chinese, at least we’ll be able to quickly turn them around into an Airbnb when we give up and move to Wanaka.

Obviously, this is all going to have a massive impact on infrastructure - roads and traffic, schools, water, waste, power, everything.

So it’s no surprise that doctor Val Miller’s suggestion in last week’s Mountain Scene has proved so popular.

She says we should ban further development until the town’s infrastructure can catch up.

But can that really be the answer?

Maybe, instead, we should just reverse the remit of DQ instead. They’ve been bloody successful in making it Destination Queenstown.

Now Graham Budd and team can start Destination Not Queenstown.

They can run glossy adverts in Australian magazines showing some freedom camper taking a dump outside your hotel window.

Or a web-based mini-series about how to get your teeth punched out down Cow Lane.

DQ though, like Queenstown Airport Corporation, is just doing what they’ve been tasked to do.

To be honest, I’m not even sure, shock horror, we can blame the council. OK, so they’ve focused on the mystical convention centre and its high-end business tourism growth when they should have been focused on capacity.

But the general growth has been gold-rush territory and the council has a limited pot of money and powers.

They can hardly just splash out on a monorail.

So who do you blame? Probably central government.

Queenstown needs more attention and funding if New Zealand is switching to a mainly tourist economy.

It can’t just fall on the small rateable base.

That leaves us all bitching amongst ourselves to find answers to problems that are bigger than the local people have the capacity to solve by themselves.

It needs serious investment, starting as always with a bed tax.

I know it’s not a panacea, but at least it would be a start. We could use it to build a monorail or at least a better staff bar.