This ain’t our first rodeo...

August 17 2020 by Scott Stevens

This ain’t our first rodeo...

A range of emotions have been displayed around Queenstown at the news last week of a community outbreak of COVID-19 in South Auckland. Anger, anxiety, a feeling of being let down or even manipulated, inevitability, acceptance, bemusement, dismissiveness. For the most part it is disappointment that we are feeling most. For Queenstown, also concerning is a huge amount of our visitors in the last few months, and their accompanying wallets have been from Auckland.

While this has consequences for our local economy, Queenstown has a strong and resilient nature. In November 1999 on the night the Wharf Casino was celebrating its second birthday, the waters of Lake Wakatipu started to invade the town. There was a blitz type excitement as the water slowly made its way onto Marine Parade and into the shops and restaurants in Beach and Rees Streets. By the next day, the water had made its way halfway up the Mall and the short-term excitement made way for long-term concern as the damage and scale of impact to businesses became apparent. The problems did not end there as the water took weeks to recede which dashed any thought most in the CBD had of being back in business for the lucrative summer season.

Luckily for those businesses that were prepared and had acknowledged the risk of flood, the insurance companies came to the party and over the following months the town was rebuilt, and businesspeople learnt the importance of having a sensible flood strategy. The insurance companies learnt about the expensive nature of the claims and rewrote their insurance policies accordingly excluding aspects of flood damage. The council worked out ways of mitigating the impact of flooding on the CBD by channelling the Shotover into the Kawarau and developed robust plans for when the lake levels rose again, as they did last November and December.

As with our flood experiences now we have learnt the effects of a global pandemic. Bird Flu, SARS and Swine Flu should have woken us up to the risk, but it took COVID-19 and the experience of lockdown in April and May for businesses to really understand the implications.

We have learned what the operating protocols are for our businesses, we have understood the need to work with our staff, landlords and suppliers to survive. The Government wage subsidies, landlord rent relief and supplier terms have softened the effect of that first lockdown blow. Now here we go again.

Hopefully, most businesses would have learnt how to operate at Alert Level 2 and have some sort of a plan in place should we go further up the alert levels. Once again, we are in for a tough few weeks or months, it will be penny pinching hard and breakeven would be a stellar result for most. But eventually the flood waters of COVID-19 will recede, and as it does our business community, fingers crossed, will be even stronger for the experience.

Scott Stevens

- Scott Stevens
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