Opinion: Let’s get on the same page

Sometimes the answer is simple.

This is just one of the observations and learnings I’ve had over the past year.

A big part of our job is listening, and when you boil it all down, there are some common themes.

Relationships are critical.

In the past couple of months, the Chamber has met with the Prime Minister and coalition partners, government ministers, our Aspen sister city mayor and counterparts, community leaders, guest speakers that are subject-matter experts, thought leaders and the like.

The common theme we share: Queenstown business is critical to New Zealand’s success.

And business is community.

It’s simple, really: a clear vision, united message and then collaboration helps us all to get things done.

However, there are some big barriers, and government funding alone is not working.

Why are we always asking for help?

No one else cares more about the future of our place (or business) than us.

We know what we need and to keep asking … frankly, it’s boring and a bit of a handbrake to productivity.

Isn’t the definition of insanity to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result?

Advocacy is part of our job, and one of our most important parts.

Clear, united messaging works — yes, government does listen.

Here are some examples:

● Parking: Looks like we’re set to get some new CBD parks at the Stanley St site. Thanks, QLDC. This will help many businesses and their employees, and we look forward to learning more.

● Rules for renting (aka the Residential Tenancies Act): We’re soon going to return to fixed-term tenancies that work for the seasonal nature of our district and just may unlock more rental properties. Pre-winter would be especially helpful. Thank you, Housing Minister.

● Accommodation supplement: Disappointingly, maybe not now. But it’s high on the agenda (credit to the Salvation Army, Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust, Southland MP Joseph Mooney, ex-mayor Jim Boult, mayor Glyn Lewers, council and all those involved to date).

● Immigration: A work in progress. The latest reform to the immigration system is basically adding more ‘red tape’ which is puzzling as the government is pretty insistent they want to minimise that. The ‘one rule for them all’ policy in this space doesn’t work for our town. Our international and seasonal workforce is part of our community and essential. Let’s look after them and treat them with respect. We can show you how smart regional policy can enable productivity and not disadvantage NZers looking for work (of which we have very few here). Thanks to the Citizens Advice Bureau and Hospitality NZ for their work in this space, too.

● Visitor levy, or some other funding mechanism to pay for essential infrastructure that the local ratepayers can’t afford? There is plenty of work happening here by local government, and Destination Queenstown, of which we are supportive.

The landscape we try to navigate in advocacy is tricky right now.

We’re in a recession, the public sector’s slashing jobs, net migration is at record levels and we’re bursting at the seams.

There’s no money to go around (unless it’s for solving yesterday’s problems), yet people still love to visit here and would likely be quite happy to pay a small price for the privilege of seeing one of the most beautiful places on earth and protect that, when they’re quite used to
doing the same in other (perhaps even less incredible) places.

What’s the problem?

On the positive side, to businesses in Queenstown: kia kaha.

You have our support.

It’s been a busy time facing every issue you can dream of but I’m sure once the coalition settles down and inflation’s more in check, there are good things coming (that’s for you, Prime Minister, I know you read Mountain Scene).

Remember, we are the shopfront for NZ Inc.

I want to close with one of my takeaways from the Aspen sister city visit.

Mayor Torre mentioned there was an Aspen local that always penned a letter to the editor of their local paper with various complaints and would always sign off with: “Be brave, comrades.”

Now there’s a lesson we should all take.

Especially given the significance of last Thursday.

Lest we forget.

Sharon Fifield is CEO of the Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce

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