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Editorial

So, what do you want, old problems or new problems?

May 18 2020 by Scott Stevens

So, what do you want, old problems or new problems?

Who else feels schizophrenic over the jobs - environment - social well-being dilemma? I have a thousand voices in my head, pulling me one way, then the other. Twitter addiction doesn’t help.

Say Donald Trump announces tomorrow that “medical doctors” have created a Covid-19 vaccine. Injecting a rare form of disinfectant works*. This can be mass produced. It will be called Trumpisan.

We’d be happy, right? Thousands of lives will be saved, so of course we’d all be happy. In Queenstown, countless jobs and businesses would be saved. But, like Venice and other tourist hotspots, we’d get all our old problems back. Mass tourism would return and we’d be arguing about airport expansion, unaffordable accommodation, rental car roulette, traffic, water quality, emissions, rates, consultants, staff shortages, and a hospital built for a small mountain village.

So what do you want, old problems or new problems? I’d take old in a heartbeat. Despite its relative social and environmental issues, this was, is, an incredible place. I want the buzz back. I want Luma, and WinterFest, people waiting at bus stops in ski gear, sunny afternoon beers, kids playing at the Bathhouse playground, and the rest. And I want people to be able to earn an income.

But if mass tourism did return in an instance, it would also feel like an opportunity has been missed. A chance to “create a regenerative, zero emissions society based on our shared values: equity, diversity, respect for all life, honouring Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the understanding we only have ONE planet”. Those words are from the excellent Southern Lakes Community Think Tank Facebook group, which has 543 members trying to thrash out a new future for Queenstown. It is fueling my topical schizophrenia.

You might of course say that jobs v environment or even late-stage capitalism v environment is a fallacy, and they can co-exist. That’s the hope but so far I’ve seen little evidence of that. Even the goal of planting a billion trees has already received backlash from farmers. The Budget’s $1.1bn for environmental jobs are jobs funded by the taxpayer.

Still, I think this community, with its innovative businesspeople, passionate environmentalists (some are both!) and committed politicians, can solve this conundrum on a local level. I’m a little concerned there are two recovery taskforces - one for the community, one for the economy. Having said that, Jim Boult’s Vision 2050, the Climate Change Action Plan, etc, seem to be on the right path.

Mass tourism will likely return some day, quick vaccine or not. Hopefully by then we’ll have measures in place to protect the community and the planet, while allowing businesses to flourish.

*Please don’t inject disinfectant.

Paul Taylor
Queenstown Media Group Editor/Journalist

- Scott Stevens
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  • MR

    Hey Guys,

    I posted this comment on Facebook but then thought I was probably opening myself up to an influx of abuse so deleted it and decided to send it to you here.

    Hey LWB - Schizophrenia is a mental health disorder not a word to describe the level of which you feel something. Words like overwhelmed or exhausted would have been a good choice and not made light of and contributed to the stigma of this condition. Just thought I should point that out. Kind Regards.

    Something for your editor to think about hopefully.

    Posted 18/05/2020 6:41pm (17 days ago)