OPINION: Reforms will make it harder for us to be heard


We hear talk of the new normal, whatever that might be, as the Covid pandemic drags on and on, and hopes of open borders still look quite a while away.

What will the new Queenstown tourism industry look like, can we survive on the greater domestic market being New Zealand and Australian visitors for the next while and should that perhaps be where our focus should remain in the long term?

Our winters have been focused on these markets anyway, as is our meetings and  conference marketing.

Will long-haul tourism be attractive and affordable in the future?







From a cost point of view, and socially as we have a climate crisis, should the central government be making visitors to NZ pay for their carbon footprint?

If they don’t, why should we be paying for the carbon they deposit in the atmosphere while enjoying our place?

Equally, NZers travelling internationally and within NZ will need to pay their way.

I don’t think that offsetting carbon will solve the problem, but the increased cost should change behaviour.

Our government talks of a tourism reset, but I don’t see anyone having this conversation.

It’s not an easy conversation and who should be having it?

If we leave it to the tourism operators and corporates, then we will get what we’ve always had.

They need to get returns on investments, maximise their dividends to shareholders.

Much of our current plant is designed to cater to the numbers we saw in the country and our town pre-Covid.

How do communities get involved in this discussion, and what do we, as in Queenstown,  want?

I think many Kiwis have enjoyed having their backyards to themselves and taken the opportunity to enjoy more of this great country we call home.

Here in Queenstown the silent majority tend not to voice an opinion, and there is definite consultation fatigue, so the voice of the vocal few is heard over and over again.

Do they speak for the majority of us or not?

I suspect not.

There are many conflicting opinions on what we want our future to look like, what is sustainable, and what is not.

If we can figure all that out, who can we persuade to listen to us?

It is particularly poignant to think about now, as we see central government moving to reform many sectors, either taking or proposing to reduce local input into governance and
control — water reforms propose to see control of our Three Waters (that is drinking, waste, and stormwater) provision and infrastructure amalgamated with other districts,
probably all of Otago and Southland, and moved away from district councils.

Proposed health reforms will see the 20 district health boards taken over by one organisation with four regional areas — ours probably being the whole South Island.

And I heard the other day the proposed reforms to the Resource Management Act are proposing to scrap our district plan and have a regional approach for planning and consents.

Our current local government and DHB systems may not be perfect, but neither will the new structures be.

Queenstown and Wanaka are projected to continue to grow at a rate far above that of most of the rest of the country, tourism growth or not.

How will the Queenstown Lakes district voice be heard when we need new infrastructure and health services to cope with the projected growth?

How will we continue to protect our unique environment from rampant over-development if planning decisions are made based on a wider regional plan or central government  agendas?

I know how hard it is trying to get bureaucrats in Dunedin, Christchurch and Wellington to comprehend the growth and issues that we have already had, let alone getting them to
understand what is projected to come in the future.

I have not felt central government has heard us in the past, and particularly over the Covid pandemic.

My point is all this proposed central isation makes me very nervous.

Who will decide the priorities?

Where will the money be spent?

What will we have to pay for our Three Waters and planning functions?

And what does all this mean for our district council?

John MacDonald’s a former City Hall councillor, the Southern District Health Board’s mental health and addictions network leadership group independent chair, and Whakatipu Community Hub Charitable Trust’s chairman