OPINION: ‘Remember it’s a town of small businesses’

Dear Santa,

By the time you read this it will be 64 days till Christmas, so I thought I better get my skates on and write to you with this year’s wish list.

I need to sit down to write this because if I try and text it to you while walking around town, I’m in danger of tripping over a road cone, walking into a safety barrier or falling into a newly-dug pit.

Seeing as ‘late 2022’ is the new April or June 2021 — as in when the central Queenstown roadworks will be finished — my request for Christmas this year, Santa, is a do-over of the past 18 months.

Particularly as it relates to how council has worked with local businesses.

I would ask about the government, but I’m managing my expectations …

Despite numerous requests, there has been no sign of willingness from council to mitigate or address the added trauma the roadworks has piled on to local businesses.

In contrast, council continued to make it so difficult that it was impossible for those businesses whose front doors were not obstructed to provide drinking and dining over summer beyond 10pm.

I know you’ll find this hard to believe, Santa, but there are a lot of people who actually stay up past then.

I would also like to revisit the additional costs piled on local businesses at the same time they were financially hurting and working all hours God sends as staff shortages bit, and bit hard.

Everyone else had to tighten their belts and look down the back of the proverbial couch to hang on in there over the past 18 months, but not council.

No, instead there were self-congratulations over the rates increases not being higher.

If you don’t have to make your way to central Queenstown on a regular basis, and I appreciate it is a long way from the North Pole, you could be forgiven for dismissing the complaints of people who some perceive had it “too good” before.

In that case, Santa, you should talk to anyone who has built or been involved in building a house in the past 18 months.

The rest of us get pulled up and fined if we breach the law, but when council doesn’t make its statutory deadlines for processing consents, or makes you incur additional cost for irrelevant questions and delays, there’s no recourse.

But if you’re lucky enough to get a consent, good luck with those council inspections, Santa.

There is nothing quite like one inspector saying, ‘all good, mate’, when the next one says, ‘no that’s wrong, you need to redo it’, only to have another come out and say it was fine in the beginning.

Probably something you could live with if you only had one inspection, but multiple?

But it is (almost) Christmas, Santa, so goodwill to all men and all that.

Now we’re on the other side of local body elections (who noticed the seeming evaporation of all those signs around the Basin?) we have a new council and mayor, I’d really like to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll remember we’re a town of small businesses.

Businesses that put roofs over families’ heads, not just their own, but their employees’, food on the tables and clothes on their backs.

Businesses that support charities, schools and each other.

I would like council to recognise our businesspeople are smart, hard-working and passionate about our place in the world, and have more than a little to contribute.

Let us move on from “consultation” and start working together.

Surely that is not too much to ask, Santa?

Ruth Stokes is Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce’s CEO

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