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Data predicts bleak future, council determined to fight back

Economists at data analytics company Infometrics have released their early modelling on the economic impacts COVID-19 could have on the Queenstown Lakes District.

The report, commissioned by Queenstown Lakes District Council, states tourism, economic activity and employment are anticipated to feel the greatest impact.

The report suggests international tourists could return gradually from 2021 but may take years to reach pre-COVID levels. The district’s economic output (Gross Domestic Product) over the next year is shown to potentially drop by around 23 per cent and over 7,000 jobs in the district could be lost.

Mayor Jim Boult says that while the report paints a bleak picture, the analysis is based on a 'do nothing' scenario and they are already making big steps as a district to improve our future.

“While Infometrics project a very difficult time ahead, we will meet these challenges head on as a community. We will continue to support those who need it during this tough time but we are already well underway working with Government, businesses and the community to support initiatives which bring jobs back and steer us towards and help to shape our new normal. These need to align with our community vision for 2050 and beyond,” says Mayor Boult.

“Predicting how and when domestic and international tourists come back to the Queenstown Lakes is a tough game, but we are more hopeful than the research on this front. The projections show that the timing of a trans-Tasman bubble, or the extent to which Kiwis travel down here, could make the difference of nearly 1000 jobs.

“And this could be even sooner than we hoped with recent news the trans-Tasman bubble may be here earlier than expected.”

Membership of the taskforces recently announced by Mayor Boult will have a strong focus on diversification. 

“We are going to have to look at business in new ways. We can develop our economy to be more diverse, sustainable and resilient and aligned to the effects of a changing climate.”

The report also outlines that without intervention, low-skilled workers are likely to be the most affected by job losses especially in the accommodation and food service industries, as well as food trade workers, cleaners and laundry workers.

As part of the response to these issues, community hubs have been established in the Upper Clutha and Wakatipu Basin (Frankton) to support ways for the community to connect with welfare support and find information about gaining new employment or diversifying their skill set. 

“Queenstown Lakes is still a unique, beautiful place and international tourism will slowly return. So this makes now an ideal time to look at infrastructure for that return, as well as benefitting our local residents,” says Mayor Boult.

“QLDC is waiting on a final decision regarding the funding applications to the Crown Infrastructure Partners for our shovel-ready projects which, if successful will support in excess of 1600 jobs over the next few years and boost the economy.”

“Our district has a proud entrepreneurial spirit and we are doing all we can to shorten the curve and support our businesses and communities through this stressful period. In partnership with other organisations and supported by $1.4m in funding from MBIE, we are working on creating redeployment options for some of our local workers that have lost their jobs.”

“I am also very encouraged by the efforts of the Local Chambers of Commerce and the Regional Tourism Operators to assist businesses and actively seeking to be innovate in promoting the district to the rest on New Zealand,” says Mayor Boult.

To support this work, and in response to the 100 ideas received by Council and more being shared among the community and other organisations, Council will soon be launching an online 'ideas portal' to allow locals to participate in the process of generating and progressing recovery ideas for the district.

“Throughout the coming months, it’s important we all support each other during this difficult time by promoting our district, staying and buying local, and being kind. Queenstown Lakes has always been a fantastic place to live, work and play.  Our community will show itself to be strong and resilient,” Mayor Boult says.

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