Situation desperate: HQNZ managing director Rob Stewart-McDonald


A Queenstown business events operator claims the new Alert Level 2, banning 50-plus gatherings, plus other government policies, are killing off his sector.

HQ New Zealand’s Rob Stewart-McDonald says the government doesn’t understand as a result of the latest lockdown, ‘‘all of our business for the next five months is postponed’’.

‘‘We went from having probably 25 events between now and January to having three [sub-50-people events].

‘‘They assume in Level 2, or Level 1, everyone goes straight back to work — in our industry, that’s not the case, we don’t start earning money again for another four or five months.’’

In a letter this week to the Prime Minister and Finance and Tourism Ministers, headed ‘A death sentence for business events without assistance’, Stewart-McDonald says his sector needs additional help to survive.

Once Auckland drops to Level 2, he won’t qualify for the wage subsidy any longer.

However, because of the long lead-time for business events, ‘‘we now have five months with no income and still have all of our costs’’.

‘‘So even in a small business like ours, that is $50,000 per month.’’

He notes his sector’s also been excluded from all targeted tourism funding including last year’s strategic tourism assets fund.

He writes: ‘‘The wage subsidy should be available to businesses that are down more than 40% due to government-imposed regulations due to Covid at any alert level.’’

Stewart-McDonald’s also asking the government when we can get international and particularly Australian visitors back.

‘‘Currently, the government’s refusal to articulate a proper plan is crushing our industry and none of our overseas clients will pay deposits or confirm programmes.’’

He tells Mountain Scene he has half a million dollars’ worth of Aussie business in January alone, ‘‘but we’ve got to be able to deliver it’’.

‘‘If the government just stated the border will open once people are vaccinated, we’d get hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of deposits flowing into Queenstown, it wouldn’t just be for us, it would be all the hotels, as well.’’