Queenstown push for gay marriage capital

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Queenstown will be promoted as a gay wedding capital if same-sex marriage is legalised. 

Wedding businesses believe the resort can cash in on ‘pink dollar’ wedding tourism if New Zealand’s law is changed.
Legalising gay marriage in NZ is on the agenda after Labour MP Louisa Wall’s marriage redefinition bill was selected via ballot last Thursday. 

The Queenstown Wedding Association was launched last week with the intention of promoting Queenstown as one of the world’s top destinations for getting hitched. 

Wedding planner Sarah Arkin says that will be extended to gay marriages should they be legalised after New Zealand MPs debate the matter later this month. 

“Queenstown should be a wedding capital for gay and straight marriages,” Arkin says. 

“People here are very welcoming and open-minded about all sorts of relationships. 

“Most couples bring all their friends and family. They’ll do the activities, stay in accommodation and dine out. It’s just a whole other tourism market. 

“Legalising would grow the sector and benefit everybody, both the wedding industry and the wider business community.” 

Hundreds of gay couples are already expected to arrive in Queenstown later this month for Gay Ski Week which runs from August 26 till September 1. 

Organiser Sally Whitewoods, who owns Aspen Backpackers, has been in a civil union with partner Mandy since 2009. 

“As far as I’m concerned she’s my wife and we’re happy with that,” Whitewoods says. 

“But having a different form of wedding almost implies you’re doing something by half. 

“There’s no need for discrimination. Society won’t fall apart because gay men and women get married.” 

Australian politicians are poised to vote ‘no’ to gay marriages later this year but Tasmania could legalise it before then. 

Cheap flights from Australia and legalisation could make Queenstown an attractive prospect. 

More than 1300 gay Australian couples married offshore last year, mainly in Canada or Argentina. But the certificates are not recognised in Australia, which does not even allow civil unions. 

Whitewood says: “There are lots of Australians coming for Gay Ski Week, as well as Kiwis and people from Canada, Singapore and elsewhere. 

“We’ve distributed 200 welcome packs to 15 accommodation providers. Everyone is pleased there is business coming into town.” 

Just four civil unions were held in Queenstown in the last year and 301 nationwide, with 76 overseas couples registered. 

Destination Queenstown boss Graham Budd says there are no plans for DQ to target the gay wedding market. 

“I don’t know if it’s something we’d look to position ourselves on. 

“But if they chose Queenstown they would be welcomed with open arms and probably have a wonderful time. We’re an amazing wedding destination.”