First visit to Queenstown for new tourism and hospitality minister

by Kim Bowden - Dec 12, 2023

The traditional tourism portfolio has been expanded to include the hospitality sector for the first time, and the new government minister responsible for it was in Queenstown this weekend.

Matt Doocey, the MP for Waimakariri, was hosted by Southland MP Joseph Mooney for a two-night, one-day first visit in his new role.

Mr Mooney, who lives in Queenstown and until last year's election was National's tourism spokesperson, says his colleague was in town "to connect with a number of local tourism and hospitality operators".

So, what were hot topics for local industry players?

"A number of issues were raised with the minister including Queenstown’s need for infrastructure - particularly housing - DOC concessions, and the value that tourism and hospitality provides to the New Zealand economy," Mr Mooney says.

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has so far ruled out a localised tourist tax for the Queenstown Lakes District - a potential revenue-generator the district council has spent years lobbying central government for.

On a peak tourism day, residents make up just 38 percent of the district's population - the rest are tourists, according to the council's latest spatial planning document.

Put simply, ratepayers alone struggle to fund necessary infrastructure upgrades to accommodate growth in visitor numbers.

The coalition government has also issued 'stop work orders' for industry transformation plans, and part of this body of work included a tourism rethink.

Part of the Tourism Industry Transformation Plan had been aimed at tackling systemic workforce issues in the tourism and hospitality sectors, traditionally both with a reputation for offering low wages, long hours and uncertainty, as well as encouraging a move towards a more regenerative form of tourism.

Mr Mooney had attacked the work programme as too "high-level and theoretical".

There was no media advisory of Mr Doocey's Queenstown visit, which Crux was only aware of after the event via a post to Facebook by the minister.

Approached for comment on how it went, his read of the room and challenges facing the sector, the minister provided the following in a written statement to Crux:

“It was awesome to get out on my first visit as Minister for Tourism and Hospitality in the adventure capital, Queenstown.

"I had the opportunity to hear from students at the Resort College, operators like NZSki and the airport. It was also great to catch up with the Queenstown mayor about the local issues and opportunities.

"It was clear that tourism is bouncing back but still needs more support to get back to pre-Covid levels and support to ensure tourism growth is sustainable. I’m also going around other parts of the country hearing from tourism operators about the challenges they are facing and understanding the issues that are at a national level, and also those unique to certain destinations.

"Back in the mid-90s I actually lived down in Arrowtown, spending time working on the Earnslaw and Walter Peak. I have very fond memories of grabbing a beer at the Royal Oak in Arrowtown, so it was special to be back down this end of the world as tourism and hospitality minister."

Mr Doocey is also the country's first minister for mental health, the minister for ACC, the minister for youth, the associate minister for transport, and the associate minister for health.

According to his profile on the party's website, Mr Doocey is a “born and bred” Cantabrian with “a long career in mental health and healthcare management".

Meanwhile Mr Mooney, a second-term MP for Southland, missed out on any ministerial role.

Main image (Facebook/Matt Doocey MP): New tourism and hospitality minister Matt Doocey has prioritised a visit to Queenstown this weekend, saying its his first stop in his new role.




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