Southern Lens election special - Joel Rowlands, TOP
As part of our Southern Lens Election Special we are publishing answers to key local questions from all the Southland candidates. This is from Joel Rowlands - TOP.
Tourism in Queenstown - was it too much before - what lessons can we learn - what next?
The short answer is yes. The quality of long-term locals' lives has significantly diminished due to over-tourism. We need to focus on a more sustainable business model rather than placing all our eggs in the tourism basket. Tourism is not growing back anytime soon. Domestic tourism won't plug all the gap, so we need to look at other ways to grow that don't include buying and selling houses off each other; it's not productive and it needs to change. Our tax, innovation and business policies will give businesses the opportunity to thrive.
Queenstown airport - what’s your position on airport expansion, airport governance and the proposed Tarras and Wanaka airport projects?
With the questionable future of international tourism, it may be best to wait and see. I'm against the airports 'growth for growth's sake'. I also think they pay themselves a bit too much in regards to governance. In the current climate, we should be focused on creating a more sustainable tourism model, rather than continuing the juggernaut conveyor-belt we have seen over the last 10 years.
Tarras and Wanaka residents need to be brought to the table and have a real say what happens in their communities. I am yet to see a strong business case for either venture nor have I seen anything detailing what return on investment would likely be, so I'll reserve my judgement.
Water quality and farming - are Southland farmers getting a fair hearing - or being attacked unfairly?
Farmers are environmentalists. Anyone who stuffs up their land is a bad farmer, and won't run a good business long term. By and large, our farmers want to do the right thing. They want water quality, they want swimmable rivers. They are not the bad guys here. However, no one can deny our water quality is diminishing, and there is no plan to actually improve it; just a plan to collect some funds and bash farmers. TOP will provide advisors that can work with farmers and their neighbours so they can figure out how best to meet their water and climate targets. TOP won't tell you how to farm. Good farmers will be rewarded for the native bush they have and for planting on riverbanks and erosion-prone land. We don't want to see farms being converted to pines to offset carbon emissions.
Politics - are younger voters justified in feeling disenchanted with the current political system and adversarial politics?
Yes. Housing costs, stagnant wage growth, growing mental health problems... none of these are being adequately addressed. A massive amount of young people don't vote, and political parties know it. It's no coincidence that policies favour older people. Labour and National are uninspiring and don't seem interested in doing anything to help. I am standing to provide a new option; a better way forward; a new voice. Something they can get behind and understand. Hey, young people: guess who does vote! Your Bosses. Your landlords. Sick of houses prices rising and wages staying stagnant! Me too!
What are your top three priorities for improving life for the people who live in the Southland electorate?
Universal Basic Income. So much of our income is seasonal and variable, not just for business owners, but cafe workers, shearers, tourist operators, snow bunnies, and the like. UBI boosts the lowest earners above the living wage - more than minimum wage increases ever could, and every New Zealander is better off. You can see for yourselves here: https://ubi.top.org.nz/
Housing. 30 yrs ago, house prices were 3 times the median income. Now they are 7, headed towards 8. We cannot wait until it hits 20 before we do something. Higher house prices drive up the rent and drive up the cost of living. It makes it harder for businesses to get capital to invest and grow (because all our investment money is tied up in housing) and means people don't have any spare cash to spend in our businesses. TOP plans to hold house prices steady for a generation by taxing property that is not generating income.
Climate-friendly COVID recovery. Other parties want to invest billions into roading projects up north where the business cases are non-existent or sketchy. Some of these projects have a return on investment of less than 1. TOP plans to put large scale projects through proper business cases to ensure we are getting value for money. If elected I will ensure that a fair distribution across the country is achieved.