Is anyone out there listening?
July 8 2019 by Simon Cox
There’s been some interesting movements in the halls of power recently which have got me wondering: what is it about the Queenstown business community that thinks it’s a good idea to ask for public feedback and then completely ignore it? This week Queenstown Airport Corporation presented its Statement of Intent following last year’s community ‘discussion’. The community, particularly those living in Frankton, sent a clear message that rapidly increasing the noise boundaries was unacceptable. Rarely does the community come together to give such a strong message on any issue but this was one. Yet the airport’s Statement of Intent feels as if that conversation never happened.
Similarly, Destination Queenstown got the extra taxpayer funding it was seeking to go off and encourage even faster growth into Queenstown. I recall reading significant push back on this both from residents and businesses who are being pushed out of town by increasing rents, lack of diversity in the downtown area and the march toward total annihilation of downtown Queenstown for locals. This year, there was an old-fashioned shoulder season and because few locals actually have a reason or want to come to downtown anymore the remaining local businesses really suffered with few visitors and even fewer locals. Historically the locals could provide a buffer in those slow times. Over-tourism is a real thing as anyone who has been to Paris, Venice or Barcelona recently can attest, yet the corporates in Queenstown don’t seem to be taking this on board. It’s all about more growth in the tourism sector, regardless of sustainability and yet there is little recognition that the very reason that people want to come to Queenstown is at risk. Yes, it’s stunning, but all the resources are under severe pressure (particularly the once-pristine water) and the quality of our infrastructure is also under pressure.
Council seems, on the surface, to recognise that climate change is a serious issue, agreeing to join other local bodies around the world in declaring a climate emergency. I say on the surface because agreeing with the airport’s Statement of Intent and funding DQ seems to fly in the face of working to reduce climate emissions.
99% of the locals I talk to recognise we enjoy the amenities we have because we have a mix of residents and visitors and putting in the bed tax will help that. What those locals don’t agree with however is that unbridled growth is necessary or desirable. More hotels will put more pressure on our water infrastructure which, coupled with a changing environment, a changing climate and aging infrastructure is already impacting the lake and our rivers. It seems to me that we, the little guys, are being taken for fools. Big businesses are ticking off the ‘communication with community’ box, then disregarding the feedback and going on their merry way. I’m not sure that’s a good idea.