Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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COVID-19 meeting with long-term recovery focus

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult has kick-started the challenging conversation about how the district recovers at the other end of the COVID-19 outbreak.

"This problem will not go away quickly. We are a district that is pretty much dependent on tourism. We are in the tourism business," he says.

"We need to keep the industry running at a level that enables us to recover when the market starts to come back."

That was Mayor Boult’s opening address as Chair of an urgent meeting convened in Queenstown yesterday with Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford, Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis and key local industry representatives.

Also in attendance completing the panel were Central Otago District Mayor Tim Cadogan and Southland District Council Chief Executive Steve Ruru.

In a candid and constructive discussion, attendees from both Queenstown and Wanaka spanned the accommodation, development, hospitality and tourism sectors and were encouraged to bring some left-field thinking to the table.

Attendees acknowledged that they had difficult decisions to make regarding staff that will affect people’s lives – emotionally, mentally and financially – and more support is needed to reduce the impact of COVID-19 for the district’s communities. Concerns also included how to manage staff on work visas and how workers can be redeployed into necessary roles.

"Central Government has a number of objectives from the initial health response and cushioning the blow from this outbreak, through to business survival and recovery. There’s been a rapid response in addressing the immediate public health risk, including from the QLDC Emergency Management Team, and I want to acknowledge the significant effort and resources being invested in helping to minimise the spread of this virus," says Mayor Boult.

"My mind is clearly focused on that latter objective; how we recover as quickly and sustainably as possible from this crisis. All the signs point to this being a situation that has lasting effects, and we should be thinking in terms of months. What does tourism in this district look like a year from now?

"Putting thought and planning into that now is the right thing to do for our social and economic wellbeing."

Alongside the Emergency Management Team, QLDC has already assembled a rfecovery taskforce to address the emerging community welfare and economic challenges that will develop over the coming months. The Council’s focus will include fast-tracking capital investment, underpinning the need for sustainable economic diversity, and ensuring access to community support services and networks.

"I have been actively engaging with Central Government and am extremely encouraged by how responsive Ministers have been in recognising the unique challenges facing our district’s communities and businesses. Together we are all thinking about how we re-establish our resort district, what our future looks like, considering the challenges of climate change and the implications for the previously low diversification of our economy."

"We are a resilient bunch in this district. We will play our part and we look forward to working with Central Government who will assist us. I would like to thank the ministers for their support for our district, now and going forward," he says.

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