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If not now, when?: Ziptrek Ecotours and 'RemoteTogetherNZ' festival founder Trent Yeo

By TRACEY ROXBURGH

A resort entrepreneur’s used the Covid-19-induced lockdown as inspiration to create, hopefully, short- and long-term benefits for the Wakatipu, and New Zealand.

Ziptrek Ecotours founder Trent Yeo’s behind a 12-day festival, being held this November, dubbed ‘RemoteTogetherNZ’.

It’ll bring together a host of local, regional, national and international speakers — including a rep from digital music service Spotify — along with guests from all over the country from big bosses and business owners to returning Kiwis, or those in the middle of the ‘‘pivot’’ to learn about how to maximise remote working, giving Queenstown an economic boost in a
quite period and, potentially, creating a new string to the town’s bow.

Yeo says in March the ‘‘future crashed in on the present’’ so residents who were
previously desk-bound recognised remote working’s not just possible, it’s also ‘‘potentially very productive’’.

‘‘We were forced into that situation and we handled it, some with more or less grace
than others.

‘‘Classically a lot of people — particularly young people without kids — were stoked that they could work from home.

‘‘I want to have an empathetic but also a progressive view about what we need to
do to move forward from here.

‘‘What if we could build a workplace by design and not by default?’’

Yeo believes NZ’s in a ‘‘unique, privileged position’’ given its health response to Covid’s better than most countries, and Kiwis have long strived for a lifestyle balance.

Combined, he thinks the stage is set to make Aotearoa a global leader in remote working.

‘‘If you can work anywhere in the world, where in the world would that be?

‘‘I think our region significantly has attributes that would bring people to our place, so I think we have a natural advantage there.’’

But, he says, remote working’s not just ‘‘Zoom and email’’.

‘‘There has to be processes around it, a culture of acceptance, there needs to be high trust and authenticity in the exchange — there are so many elements that make it work well.

‘‘I think now the edge has been knocked off it, it’s much easier to accept it as part of
normal life.

‘‘One day a week, or half a day a week, why can’t I work from home?

‘‘Maybe I want to save my travel and go for a run in the middle of the day.’’

During the festival, running from November 2 till 13, co-working spaces are going to pop up around Queenstown to enable people who travel here for it to actually work while they’re here.

The World Bar and the TSS Earnslaw will provide two of those spaces, Yeo says.

Part of the theory behind that was ‘‘asset utilisation’’.

Given the assets in Queenstown — infrastructure, physical and intellectual property — Yeo wants to understand how to use those in a better and more efficient way than pre-Covid.

‘‘What do we need to be adaptable, to utilise these things and embrace all of the things that don’t make it a perfect, classic workplace, but make it a new-style workplace for people?

‘‘The World Bar hub and the Earnslaw are two of the examples.’’

Further, Yeo says, content produced throughout the festival will be used to market the Wakatipu as an option for remote workers across the world, in particular expats who might now be looking to be part of the ‘brain gain’ and come back.

‘‘I think our town and region offers a lot of internationalism, but it has all the attributes of lifestyle that most Kiwis really inspire to.

‘‘If you can work anywhere in the world, where would that be?

‘‘The whole thing is really clearly focused on our intent which is to live, effectively, the dream.’’

Earlybird tickets for the festival cost $175 + GST, which covers all internal parts of the programme.

To register, visit www.remotetogethernz.com.

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz