Mark Wilson: Being far away can do us a favour


OPINION: Hello Queenstown, how are things back home at the centre of the universe?

I trust a boardie and jandal-clad spring has sauntered in and warmed things up a bit for some goggle-tan days of spring skiing.

How is the local body election race going? It was great to see some healthy competition emerging before I left with a good selection of candidates.

Hopefully the morality bar is being kept high and candidates don’t get mired in dirty politics like the last national election.

I’m sure Basil Walker will continue to barrage the Scene with his colourful ramblings to keep me somewhat updated on progress.

Queenstown, to be honest I’ve not thought about you much while enjoying myself here in Europe and I’m sure you haven’t missed me either – well, except George the Horse and Scoop, who might be short on a few running kilometres since my departure.

It’s good to get out of the bubble every now and then and I always enjoy poking my head out of the blissful mist of our own little utopia, dropping work for a while and experiencing some of the more redeeming features other countries have to offer.

Aside from a few speed bumps – care of some very out-of-character service issues with Air New Zealand, the usual complete shambles that is Spark’s global roaming, and the missions I had trying to find a milkshake in Stockholm, and a Speight’s in London – it’s been a great break to date in the UK and Scandinavia.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the fantastic public transport services and high-quality infrastructure in general.

It’s still an area NZ has plenty of catching up to do.

Stockholm is essentially no bigger than Auckland and it’s got a fully functional underground rail system, comprehensive bus network and is laced with bike lanes.

Work started in the 1940s and is always ongoing.

The moral of the story is prioritising spending on core services over fluffy nice-to-haves, planning well ahead of current needs and committing a substantial investment pays dividends in the long run.

It’s a poignant message for Queenstown’s council hopefuls.

While I’ve had a great time I can’t help but feel a little for Europe.

It has changed since my last visit – it feels a little less welcoming than it once was, with the famed freedom movement becoming a little less free if the series of questions ‘ve been asked at airports are anything to go by.

Just like Auckland and Melbourne, there is more visible homelessness, even in places like Sweden, which has shocked the locals.

The pool I went to in Stockholm was having some cultural issues with new migrants and the female bathers, leading to segregating of the spa pools. Communities are changing and security is noticeably tighter in many places.

So while we can’t build infrastructure to save ourselves, our unique geographic isolation has spared us from some of the more tragic challenges facing Europe.

I’m heading down to France for a wedding next and I’m sure they will be on edge still down there.

However I’m hoping Iceland – recently ranked as the safest country on earth – will allow me to leave my car doors unlocked, like Southland in the ’90s.

Mark Wilson is a Queenstown marketing consultant whose level of optimism spikes with the availability of Speight’s