Outside Looking In - Dr Wayne Mapp
As part of our Outside Looking In series, former Defence Minister, National MP and Law Commissioner Dr Wayne Mapp describes his perspective on Queenstown. He's a regular visitor, sometimes flying his own light aircraft from Auckland, and reckons we are in very good shape in spite of some widespread misconceptions.
Queenstown, is the only truly international class destination in New Zealand. Not only the extraordinary range of natural scenic attractions, there are others of similar quality in New Zealand. It is the total visitor experience, the sense that Queenstown is a place set up to welcome visitors from around the world and then give them a world class experience.
I have been visiting Queenstown since the early 1980s. I have come by car, by bus, by air, including on two occasions flying in by light aircraft from Auckland. The last being a truly spectacular way to arrive, coming in from Haast and emerging over the Wakatipu basin at 6000ft on a glorious summer day. The view must be well over 150km. It seems half the southern part of the South Island is on display. It is one of the great sights of the world.
In the 40 years since I first visited Queenstown, it has never grown tired or boringly familiar. There is simply too much to do in any one visit. There will be always something to tempt you for the next visit.
Each time I visit it seems that Queenstown has new attractions on offer. In particular there has been the spectacular growth of vineyard restaurants that are as good as any in the world. Queenstown of course is not just a gastronomic and vintner’s delight. The local walks of a few hours through to the Great Walks taking a few days are extraordinary. It is the amazing views and clear mountain air that are such a contrast to anything in the North Island.
The full range of adventure tourism has made Queenstown a “must see” place for young people from throughout the planet. There can hardly be a visitor to New Zealand who has not heard of Queenstown and been told that it will be the highlight of their visit.
But does the world renowned reputation of Queenstown have its downside? Is it too artificial and too expensive?
Well, I guess no place on earth is perfect. But to my mind Queenstown has not lost its essential Kiwi feel. Sure, it has way more tourists than any other part of the country but it has not lost its authenticity or become a place no longer recognisable to the rest of New Zealand.
There’s a view held by some people that Queenstown is only a place for the rich and famous. That is such a false picture. Queenstown has people from all walks of life. New Zealand families across the board will find a whole range of things to do in Queenstown that will suit their wallet. Sure, there are the rich and famous visiting in their private jets. But there are much greater numbers who come with their backpacks and a few dollars in their wallet. And they are more likely to have a better time than those who only go to the most expensive restaurants and stay enclosed in a bubble of wealthy exclusivity.
Over the last 40 years Queenstown has only got better. The Queenstown of today has vastly more on offer than the Queenstown of my youth. And this will still be as true for today’s 20 year olds when they visit Queenstown in 2060.