Values-based wish-list for Queenstown’s reset

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At 13 years old, I watched with excitement as the AJ Hackett crew tested their bungees outside our house on Thompson Street.

They tied cables to a power pole and a ute, and accelerated.

I remember getting weighed in a creaky caravan, my jump in the gorge, then scrambling up the dusty cliff and proudly getting the naff t-shirt.

From age five my sisters and I were dropped off at Coronet each winter Saturday.

My little sister, aged three, wandered around with a sign around her neck saying, ‘if lost, return to Dr Mike at the ski patrol’.

Christ.

Local kids ran free.

We’d play on the gondola (get the red bubble!).

We’d bike through the campground to school, into town to check out the loopies, or I’d take the dog up Bob’s Peak.

On Saturdays I’d tear around Dalefield’s dusty roads on a poorly-controlled pony until dark.

Apart from disbelief we made it to adulthood, this may show you where my passion for the Wakatipu and, yeah, an absolute sense of privilege and entitlement comes from.

Since returning to Queenstown after 20-plus years abroad, I’ve been nostalgic.

I know things change, but it’s been a cognitive challenge.

Wealth is concentrated; from zero-hour contracts to working parents, good people struggle daily.

Frankton Flats is a homage to cars and cheap plastic shit for landfill.

The takeaway trash.

The whine of aircraft, jetboats, cars, cars, cars.

My town is an ageing port hooker.

She’s past her use-by, abused, missing teeth, arguably diseased, and yet still sent out working – Wanaka knows precisely that it doesn’t want the same fate.

The last six weeks or so have been like reading The Lorax backwards.

MY GOD it’s beautiful here.

I’ve been haunting the Kawarau.

The sediment has settled and it’s teeming with fish, birdlife.

I hear the crunch of feet on gravel, chatter in a myriad of languages, people being present.

The mountains.

Piwakawaka follow, chattering.

Warm smiles crossing paths with others in the vast empty spaces.

The sweet expectation of a coming winter where locals can play in the snow without crowds and collisions.

Now the noise is ramping up.

Traffic is back, and I’m part of the problem.

No fish jumping today, the swans have gone, few families are on the trails.

My job relies on flights, and I absolutely get the relief of local businesses able to operate again.

But I’m conflicted, thinking about the quadruple bottom line: people, planet, profit and purpose.

The wonderful Ralph Hanan says it’s not radical to reclaim our values.

He calls it the ‘Queenstown Ponzi scheme’, rather than prostitution, being far smarter than me.

So here’s my values-based wish-list to get started:

  • We value our home, and stop whoring her. Higher-value tourists, diversified economy.
  • Repeal the Freedom Camping Act 2011. Subsidising shitboxes through rates, taxes, and environment, is a ridiculous model.
  • Keep supporting our wonderful businesses who look after our community. No social licence for those asking for support after years of rorting.
  • Kill off the loathed airport expansions and plan a cutting-edge smart community airport. I just saved council $260,000.
  • Harness our local talent to work creatively and strategically for a higher-productivity economy. Listen to us!
  • No businesses who privatise profit, while socialising welfare and waste. You know who you are. WE know who you are. Pay a living wage and take responsibility for your mess.
  • Get rid of those stupid Kiwi crossings and give way to people on bikes and on foot. E-ferries on the lake. Buses that work for our needs.
  • Ok, this is more radical: A couple of days a week without motors on the rivers. Let them breathe and let people enjoy the stillness and silence. Sell that as a value proposition and support businesses who pivot to sustainability.
  • Encourage New Zealanders to feel welcome again; make it family-friendly, dog-friendly, easy and fun. Show them the real us. They will come.

I don’t really remember bungy jumping aged 13. I remember the experience of doing something special, of the dusty caravan in the gorge, the friendliness and joy.

I remember a Queenstown beautiful and full of potential.

Let’s be better.

Terri Anderson’s an ‘entitled ex-local’ who’s become ‘old and grumpy’ and is a fan of cheap wine.  She’s also a former Queenstown Chamber of Commerce board member, and a founding member of Startup Queenstown Lakes