Let’s tackle this head-on

September 27 2021 by Paul Taylor

Let’s tackle this head-on

As hospital passes go, it looks as if Queenstown dodged a big one last year when Government decided against creating a ‘bespoke sports isolation hotel’ here.

Sounds cool doesn’t it, like somewhere Ivan Drago would train. You’d expect to find rows of super-fit people doing synchronized jumping jacks in the grounds, drinking green smoothies and foam-rolling themselves and each other.

When the idea was proposed, it was backed by mayor Jim Boult. You can see the potential benefits for Queenstown. World class athletes and teams staying in town, hopefully sticking around to train and play a few warm up matches after they’ve been given the all-clear, attracting domestic visitors, spending money in bars and restaurants, lots of social media posts, not to mention guaranteed, captive guests and income for at least two major hotels, along with security firms etc. etc. 

But, in reality, with the rise of the Delta variant, the risk to the community would have been too great. While there have been no community cases spreading from Christchurch’s MIQ at Chateau on the Park, where sports teams have been accommodated instead, there have been positive cases, and both the Pakistan and West Indies men’s cricket teams broke managed isolation rules during their stays. The whole MIQ situation is so contentious too, the idea that well-paid sport stars get special Queenstown treatment, while the rest of returning Kiwis battle for a spot in cramped city centre rooms, would have likely brought us more social media hate.

All that aside, the reasons why MIQ Sport QT did not go ahead should concern everyone in Queenstown.

As RNZ revealed, we managed to avoid the hospital pass because... we don’t have a big enough hospital. MBIE officials who visited in August 2020, found our health resources were too limited. There’s no tertiary health facility and health staff would need to be brought from Dunedin and Invercargill. Neither do we have enough general workers or security guards to staff a facility, which would have cost $776,000 to set up and $4.2m-a-month to run.

So what happens then as we move to the next phase of reopening? Pre-departure tests, self-isolation and MIQ for those from risky countries is all well and good, but you’ve got to think at some point in 2022 Delta will reach Queenstown. Vaccination massively reduces the risk of hospitalisation, but it doesn’t remove it completely. And what about the immunocompromised and children who, at this point, can’t take the vaccine? The SDHB has 47 ventilators - 38 in Dunedin, 8 in Southland and one in an aircraft. Are we going to see an endless stream of choppers transferring patients down there?

Perhaps rather than a sports quarantine hotel, roads, pavements and nature projects, we should instead be pushing the Government to spend Covid-cash on health facilities for Queenstown Lakes.

Paul Taylor
Queenstown Media Group

- Paul Taylor