June 2 2020 by Scott Stevens
I am making a big effort to get back into Queenstown’s CBD, and as I poke about in my white coat and stethoscope, I detect a faint pulse. With the greatest respect to the tremendous efforts and stress it has taken to reopen, our local businesses across tourism, hospitality and everyone in between have caught economic coronavirus. It is bad, with most in ICU, on ventilators. Some days (like Queen’s Birthday weekend) signs of moderate improvement are strong. But our vaccine to economic recovery is consistent blood flow – that is, people back in the heart of town on a regular basis. We need to pull out all the stops to achieve this.
Unlike Arrowtown for example, Queenstown no longer has a resident base of local families near the CBD. On any given day you will still see the volumes of shoppers at 5 Mile but in town you can virtually park where you like. I put $2 in a parking metre on Marine Parade last Thursday. It got me 30 mins. Pre-Covid discouragement rates. I stayed there for three hours. I did not get a ticket. Maybe unofficially, council are on the same page. Forget about discouraging CBD parking for now and bring the locals back.
Some days the signs of life in the CBD are so weak I start writing up the death notice. Then I see a familiar face, then another. All of sudden the heart beats louder. The locals are still here, and we can save this town. I get to work with chest pumps and oxygen, starting with these words in the Lakes Weekly. Because we need to get the messaging right. Despite not getting a parking ticket last Thursday, there was chalk on my tyre. Was that just a friendly warning not to abuse my overstaying, or are the parking wardens back in the business of discouraging local traffic to Queenstown’s CBD?
I know the problems being discussed in the Gorge Road Council Chambers. Drop parking charges then who pays for the hugely beneficial $2 Bus? Have free parking (or too cheap) and the last remaining CBD based office and hospo workers will hog them all day and all night. Maybe 1-hour free parking is the short-term solution to encourage the heartbeat. Make it official, advertise it and do not leave us wondering if we can or cannot park in the CBD.
We all complained only a few months ago that Queenstown was not for the locals anymore. The frustration, mainly with traffic, parking and hordes of tourists kept us away. Now, the more I look the more I see how wrong we were. Of course, Queenstown is for locals, it always has been. It just got too popular. The character of the town was hiding behind that frustration. With great parking, local businesses and local business owners, favourite old cafes, restaurants and bars, the TSS Earnslaw at Steamers Wharf, KJet’s yellow boats departing Queenstown Bay, the Gondola ascending Bobs Peak – all those familiar things you took for granted. Now, they are returned to us.