19 Mar 2020

Bleak prospects for Queenstown: 'There will be a lot of pain'

6:47 pm on 19 March 2020

The dire economic future of Queenstown businesses reliant on the tourism industry was laid bare at a meeting between operators and government ministers today.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult says it's time to consider future crossings.

Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult says Covid-19 is bringing massive challenges for the district. Photo: Supplied / Queenstown Lakes District Council

Queenstown Lakes District mayor Jim Boult led a meeting of local tourism businesses and the Minister of Tourism, Kelvin Davis, and the Minister for Economic Development, Phil Twyford.

The ministers released details of a $600 million relief package to help the country's aviation industry ahead of the meeting.

Twyford said it's a very sobering time, not only for Queenstown, but for the entire tourism industry.

"We didn't sugarcoat the economic situation for Queenstown, the district and the tourism industry but neither did the businesses and leaders we just spent the last hour and a half with sugarcoat what they're going through for us.''

He said while the government wants tourism in the resort to bounce back bigger and better, "we can't put the entire workforce on the government payroll, it's not feasible to do that''.

Instead, he said the government needs to work smarter with businesses to help them survive.

Announcing help for aviation industry

Economic Development Minister Phil Twyford, right, says it's impossible to put all of Queenstown's workforce on the government payroll. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

Boult told media there were massive challenges ahead of the district.

"I suspect we're in for a difficult time like we've never seen before.

"The issues are large, they are pressing, they're not going to go away overnight.''

He also thanked the ministers for not sugarcoating the news.

Despite the economic forecast Boult believed the impact of Covid-19 was survivable.

"We've been through tough times before but this is going to take a real focus. There will be job losses, there will be a lot of pain. Businesses are going to have to be very innovative to trade their way through this.''

He said he has asked the ministers to think about support for capital projects in the district to give some of the region's workforce the chance to find alternative employment to the tourism industry.

However he said, the meeting worked on the presumption that while the resort would have a domestic ski season, "I think the chances of an international ski season are questionable''.

The Minister of Tourism said the message in the meeting had been "quite dire'' but it had been heartening to hear that the businesses were thinking of their staff and friends.

"They have some tough decisions to make around their businesses.''

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