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Times now are tough, but there will be light on the other side

March 24 2020 by Jim Boult, Mayor Queenstown Lakes District

Times now are tough, but there will be light on the other side
Jim Boult, Mayor - Queenstown Lakes District

It has been an extremely difficult week. I am very used to frequently describing the Queenstown Lakes District as a thriving economy, boasting near zero unemployment, but suddenly, this is no longer the case. And, typically, management of my weekly diary requires the balancing of travel, with various meetings across the country and a series of events here in Wānaka and in Queenstown. It’s been very different this week. My time has been spent working with central government, our civil defence team, the SDHB, a fledgling recovery team and council staff in full emergency management mode all the while fielding messages from so many residents and businesses offering assistance. Clearly the one thing that hasn’t changed, is the spirit of our community.

The bleak reality of missing out on the culture of the Festival of Colour, the excitement of Warbirds over Wānaka, LUMA or the unique village celebration that is the Arrowtown Autumn Festival, is depressing to say the least. All of these events, year on year bring us joy and celebrate those that give of their talents so readily time after time. They are all great examples of the creative and collaborative communities we have here.

To think of these events, alongside the other enormously successful achievements and world firsts of entrepreneurs and our creative community groups, brings me great comfort in this unsettling and uncertain time. Further, when I look at the leadership in place across the district (and I’m talking across the board – in our schools, business community, community associations, arts, environmental and sporting groups, as well as local government) I have great confidence that we have the collective skills, energy and ingenuity to get through this upheaval.

I’m going to give you some examples. In this district, a young musterer bought into a small trucking business, which evolved into a ski field and tourism empire and resulted in a knighthood and his induction into the New Zealand Business Hall of Fame. A couple of young travellers took an ancient tradition from Vanuatu and turned it into a global adventure tourism business with its home right here in our district. Over 3 million people worldwide have now bungy-jumped with AJ Hackett. Our youth are often on the world’s academic, environmental and sporting stages. We have people with a passion for the environment that have built incredible networks planting hundreds of thousands of natives and trapping predators to bring thriving bird song amongst our stunning scenery.

Here at Council you can have faith that we have the skills, relationships and experience to support our communities in this difficult time. More examples. Our Council Chief Executive Mike Theelen, labelled by one of the Council’s most vocal detractors as “just the sort of man you’d want in charge of our multiple community crises and challenges”, was Christchurch City Council’s Manager of Strategy and Planning during the Christchurch Earthquakes and more importantly, the recovery. Our Economic Development team are experienced and already have an excellent network within the business community, MBIE and with our Chambers of Commerce and tourism organisations. Our Councillors have extensive community health, tourism, business and environmental backgrounds. I could go and on.

From this community will come stories of the generosity and resilience humanity is very capable of. In years to come we will recall just how we looked out for our neighbours, how landlords and tenants, bankers and debtors, and those from both the Upper Clutha and Wakatipu all worked together to get through this pandemic and emerged in better shape than before.

Times now are tough. But there will be light on the other side. Let’s seize the opportunity to be at our very best, and show the attributes that have made us a beacon for business and community spirit around the world.

Kia kaha.

Jim Boult
Queenstown Lakes District

- Jim Boult, Mayor Queenstown Lakes District
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