The Southern Lakes can’t afford to host the SailGP – or any other major events

by Peter Newport - Mar 25, 2024


In theory Queenstown, Wānaka and Cromwell should be natural targets for major sporting events. We have a good climate, a lot of hotels and a decent local airport.

We also have big lakes.

But the mechanics of hosting major global events involves quite a lot of cash. Cash for an up-front hosting fee (in the millions of dollars) and then cash for the extra infrastructure that each event requires.

Sometimes it’s possible to get a share of ticket revenue, but generally the host venue is expected to make its money back from the economic benefit such as more visitors and more local visitor spend.

These opportunities also provide global TV exposure and show that our local communities have the skills to help mount complex and spectacular events.

But Queenstown and Wānaka fall at the first hurdle. We don’t have any money to invest and little to no ratepayer enthusiasm for any further council expenditure.

Cromwell is short of hotels and also has smaller budgets than their neighbouring QLDC.

Whether its SailGP or something else, this exposes the situation where all of our council’s money has been blown on risky and ill-advised projects as well as an over-inflated payroll. 

Lakeview, the Queenstown CBD cosmetic “upgrade”, the arterial road to nowhere, buying 516 Ladies Mile and hiring an extra 300 staff at a time that the rest of the country is cutting costs – all of these add up to not only eye-watering debt for decades to come but a lack of ratepayer confidence and trust. The council’s own 15% satisfaction rating is proof of that.

Over $200 million of our money has effectively been flushed down the toilet.

If the council pushes ahead with the $50-$100 million Project Manawa, their speculative new QLDC headquarters, either many of us will give up and leave the district or we'll have local protesters out on the streets - in force. 

Our part of the world is blessed with amazing natural scenery that attracts millions of people every year. Our tourist industry is something that generally we can all be proud of.

But the way that money gets spent is the problem. There’s little transparency and too many downright dumb decisions from our QLDC CEO and senior managers – supported by a mute mayor and mute councillors. Those dumb decisions have been literally at the expense of clean drinking water, decent wastewater systems and a workable roading and public transport system. 

So, we pay the price.

There’s no way we can bid for world class major events. And that tells the rest of the country, and the world, that we are not a community that’s in a healthy state.

To make matters worse there’s no green shoots of change on the horizon. That’s down to us, the residents, to fix.

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