Parting Shot: Postcard to the new PM


OPINION: My straw poll is mixed.

Former mayor Warren Cooper reckons Queenstown isn’t as busy as he expected this summer.

(It’s alright, Warren, Chinese New Year’s almost here.)

Meanwhile, one of our Dunedin wizards, Wayne, who helps put together the Scene, couldn’t believe the traffic up here while on a short trip.

“Auckland’s got nothing on you,” he says.

I needed a poll because I’ve been away on holiday.

It’s fair to say the roads around Port Chalmers weren’t busy. Well, apart from the day that huge cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas, came in.

Having little kids, we arrived at a beach near Purakaunui early enough one morning to have the whole place to ourselves.

Queenstown’s BP roundabout was far from my mind.

But now I’m back the grey matter’s starting to grind into gear again.

According to a column in the ODT last week, visitor numbers at the Moke Lake campground are up 20 per cent this summer.

Moke Lake and Twelve Mile Creek campsites are apparently full.

(Is this really surprising, considering the clampdown on freedom campers?)

Dissatisfaction in Otago at the “sharp end of tourism” (is that us?) ran at 27 per cent last year, “according to some sources”.

Former Federated Mountain Clubs president Robin McNeill drew a picture of “crowded campsites, pernicious anti-freedom camping laws with most New Zealanders seemingly hating camper vans”.

McNeill, an Invercargill-ite, calls for a strategy, with teeth.

“And soon,” he says, adding: “Then we need action, and with alacrity.”

Wandering through town this week it seemed busy. There were only a few parks at the Ballarat carpark. The checkouts were pumping at Alpine Supermarket. I was interested to see the cars parked on reserves.

Yeah, it’s busy. But let’s have some perspective –¬†I’ve felt more intimidated by the crush of humanity on a street corner of Melbourne.

McNeill’s comments rebounded around the media this week.

The soundbites were that NZ spends more on marketing the country than protecting it (tourism marketing versus Department of Conservation’s budget) and tourists funnelled $2.8 billion a year in GST to the government’s consolidated fund.

The last part makes me mad. A key reason then Finance Minister and now Prime Minister Bill English could deliver a surplus, and cement his economic legacy, is the country’s tourism magnetism, helped in large part by Queenstown.

Yet many would argue the government isn’t doing enough to help.

Turn the clock back to 2008. The Otago electorate was broken up and bits (Queenstown, Arrowtown and Roxburgh) were shoved to English’s safe Clutha-Southland seat.

National got the jewel in the crown. But I reckon, in the last nine years, we’ve had bugger all in return.

Yes, thanks for the $22 million bridge and the new high school. Plus special legislation to fast-track house developments (and retirement homes – gee whiz!).

But I believe we’re being shortchanged on affordable housing, health, education, public transport and roads.

Not to take it away from English’s successor, Todd Barclay. He’s probably paid more attention to Queenstown in the past two years than¬†English did in the past 10.

So here’s the challenge to our new prime minister: Please give Queenstown a way to pay for its infrastructure, like a bed tax. Before the election, like your office promised.

It’s easy for English. He knows Queenstown’s been part of his blue, blue world since 2008 and he can’t be punished if he doesn’t fix it. National will still easily win this safe seat.

But it’s not good enough.

Good politicians should want to leave places better for their kids, right? English should want Queenstown to be better than what it is. Not because he’s got six kids but because Queenstown used to be his baby.