Mayor Boult - Humanitarian crisis on the horizon - updated.
In a mass Zoom meeting with over 300 residents Mayor Jim Boult has said that a humanitarian crisis is developing with Queenstown's 3,500 migrant workers.
The Mayor also said that the current rate rise of around 7% would be dropped back to the rate of inflation and council was looking at a number of cost cutting options to match reduced revenue. He said the 7% rate rise was "off the table."
Most of the QLDC's recovery efforts were focussed on two task forces and on restoring tourism, albeit as the "most sustainable tourist destination in the world."
The Mayor referred to tourism and construction as the mainstays of the local economy although he said diversification away from a reliance on tourism was important.
Boult was still confident that some sort of ski season might be possible - involving locals and some domestic visitors. He acknowledged that many New Zealanders might not be able to afford even a domestic holiday as a result of Covid-19.
As far as our overseas borders opening again, the Mayor thought the end of this year would be the earliest viable date.
Construction projects such as roads, roundabouts and the CBD by-pass roads were seen as work worth over $180 million that could be started "almost immediately, when the lock down is over."
QLDC has halted rent for many of its commercial tenants in order to help them survive.
QLDC has today (April 8th) clarified some of the Mayor's comments below around migrant workers.
"Queenstown Lakes District Council is not providing a $244 civil defence weekly grant, as indicated by Mayor Jim Boult at a business online update yesterday.
What was being referred to was the provision of food vouchers in conjunction with local supermarkets to those in need who register and qualify for welfare assistance.
Anyone needing assistance with essential supplies can register for help online at www.qldc.govt.nz/covid-19 or phone 0800 322 4000 between 7.00am-7.00pm daily. "
Shortly after the Zoom update, the QLDC released the following update on behalf of the Mayor.
"We are entering what will undoubtedly be the toughest economic situation our district has ever seen and we need to start planning for the future, Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult has said.
“The reality of the situation is that no other district in Aotearoa New Zealand will be affected economically to the same extent our district will,” Mayor Boult said.
“For much of the country, tourism is a part of their economy. For us, it largely is our economy. Make no mistake, the upcoming period is akin to a war, and a war we must win. The future of our district depends on the actions that we will take in the coming months.”
“Right now the task might seem daunting, especially alongside the significant response work underway as we all do our utmost to contain the spread of COVID-19 and break the chain of infection. Practically everybody in our district is doing what needs to be done to rid us of the disease, but while we are in lockdown we need to start planning how we navigate through our current situation to be in the best possible position once the lockdown is lifted.”
“Within Council we have had many discussions on how we go about this. Councillors and I have agreed that this is not a task for any single person or organisation. The key here is that we need to enable and empower conversations which give locals, community groups, businesses and investors some pathways for how we will collectively rebuild this district and create a truly prosperous community. To do that we need voices with enough mana to make Central Government sit up and take notice. We have always had a reputation as a community that is self-reliant, entrepreneurial, and pulls together, and we need these qualities now more than ever.”
“We have concluded that this process falls under two separate but interlinked headings – Community Recovery and Economic Recovery. Our plan now is to bring together a steering group of suitable people from throughout the district. They will need to come from a range backgrounds and interests to shape the terms of reference, and the make-up of both recovery taskforces. Experience in times of crisis means that we don’t actually know what the answers are so there is no blueprint; the work of the taskforces will be to explore and provide innovative ideas for the future for the whole community.”
Mayor Boult proposed that Council could help facilitate the essential conversations ahead, but he clarified that this needed to be led by representative groups that reflected the holistic wellbeing of the district’s communities: social, economic, environmental and cultural.
“I’ve spoken with a number of highly successful individuals from a variety of fields who live either full or part –time in the district and who are willing to put their hands up to assist voluntarily as part of this conversation. I would hope to see them come together in some form, perhaps along the lines of the Mayoral Housing Taskforce of 2017 or the more recent community-developed Vision Beyond 2050,” Mayor Boult said.
“Whatever form it takes, the conversation needs to start now. We need big thinkers, innovators, experts in their field. This district needs to come together and talk about what we want to be in the coming years. If ever there was an opportunity or clearer signal to focus on the work that we have been doing to diversify our economy beyond its reliance on the visitor sector, then this is it.”
A recovery-focused team within Council is currently considering options for how a group could be convened in a way that reflects Mayor Boult’s comments, as well as the role that Council can play to facilitate and support discussions.
Mayor Boult noted that he had canvassed the proposal with Councillors, and said he would provide a further update in the coming weeks as progress was made on bringing a group together."