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Exceptional places attract exceptional people

March 12 2018 by AJ Mason Erstwhile astrophysicist, geek-in-residen

There’s a lot about Queenstown that’s immediately obvious as exceptional: Our extraordinary landscapes, our festive atmosphere, and the various entertainments of our visitor economy. Less obvious, but no less exceptional, is what we have because of them.

We’re blessed with the most fantastic collection of people, almost all of whom started out somewhere else, but who fell in love with Queenstown and are now here contributing to a cosmopolitan, energetic, and enthusiastic culture second to none. When our community is planning for its future, we have access to advice from world leading experts from the highest levels of academia, business, government, and non-profit sectors - and access to the energy and imagination of incredibly enthusiastic and dedicated people. Not because we spend thousands flying them in from all corners of the world, but because they’re here already, visiting, living, or part time resident. Because this exceptional place attracts equally exceptional people.

So, we need to be cautious when considering mechanisms that would block this, blunt tools that might - for instance - block home ownership to new arrivals without recognising the contribution such arrivals make. We need to make sure we strenuously reject any notion that our visitors exist only as a ‘cash cow’ upon whom we can base our economy, but otherwise show little respect for.  Good enough to pay your rent, but not good enough to be welcomed in friendship.

And we need to stop thinking of our visitor economy as the end of the story, when instead it’s just the beginning. This town has done pretty well selling burgers and hotel rooms to visitors but imagine how much better it can do by fully engaging our visitors, both short and long term, in our community, our entire culture, our whole economy. Many arrivals have exceptionally high levels of skill and expertise across a range of fields, and it’s a crying shame that year after year we deny them and us the benefits of those skills: Day labouring, cleaning, and hospitality positions are plentiful, but opportunities in the sciences, in technology, in creativity and innovation - these are all far rarer than they should be.

We all know this, it’s nothing that hasn’t been said before. But we’re now doing something about it. Startup Queenstown Lakes is a new, entrepreneur led group that’s forming right now. We’re out to build a prosperous, resilient, and diversified local economy, and to expand our ability to attract and retain the world’s most exceptional people. Over the coming weeks we will be initiating a range of actions, many of which we’ll need your help and support for. As a first step we’re running a startup census, turning “what we all know” into hard data that we can use to inform our community, its decision making, and those in Wellington and elsewhere whose support we need.  If you’re interested in innovation, already on the startup pathway, or feel you might be able to help those who are, we’d love to hear from you at www.entrepreneurship.co.nz.

On Tuesday morning (7:30 to 9am), March 27th at Yonder on Church Street, we’ll be hosting a morning coffee and conversation about what we’ve set out to achieve, how we might be able to help you, and how you can join us in building a local economy as exceptional as this place and our people already are.  We’d love to see you there, and have your help opening this exciting new chapter of Queenstown’s story.

AJ Mason

Erstwhile astrophysicist, geek-in-residence, usual suspect

- AJ Mason Erstwhile astrophysicist, geek-in-residen
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