‘Absolute bloodbath’: Walker



With an estimated 4500 Queenstown-Lakes workers losing their jobs due to the Covid-19 crisis, the local Opposition MP’s urging the government meet with the local community,
and particularly the decimated tourism sector.

‘‘This is an absolute bloodbath’’, Queenstown-based MP Hamish Walker says.

While some employees had already been made redundant, he expects thousands more will be down the road when the government’s wage subsidy scheme ends late June.

‘‘We’re very different to the rest of New Zealand, the majority of our tourism industry’s based on international visitors, and the tap’s literally been turned off overnight.’’

The government, Walker says, need to ‘‘listen very carefully and understand what the sector needs to ensure we can rebuild as soon as possible’’.

The sector’s calling for the Aussie border to reopen as soon as possible.

‘‘If we can get that open by the end of the year, that will be a lifeline for many businesses.’’

Walker’s also calling for an urgent government support package for Queenstown to try to soften the blow.

Queenstown’s hotel industry, in particular, is shedding staff at a rate of knots.

As one example, it’s understood Hilton’s looking to make 150 of its 230 staff redundant.

General manager Chris Ehmann won’t comment on specifics, but says he doesn’t know any business in the industry that isn’t downsizing.

Giving notice now, he says, is not just a matter of following employment law, but allows employees the best chance to plan their future once the wage subsidy ends.

From talking to colleagues, he thinks many staff in town are finding it hard to accept business isn’t about to return to normal.

Queenstown’s two largest tourism employers are also preparing to downsize.

Skyline boss Geoff McDonald, whose company employs about 1200 staff in Queenstown, and worldwide, says ‘‘we’re having to make some pretty significant structure changes’’.

In Queenstown it’s planning a ‘‘a major downsizing’’ of its workforce.

Wayfare spokeswoman Tsehai Tiffin, whose company’s brands include Real Journeys and Go Orange, says ‘‘no permanent staff redundancies have been made, however the unprecedented impact on the tourism industry caused by the Covid-19 pandemic means we have been planning for that eventuality’’.

But, redundancies won’t be actioned till after the wage subsidy ends.