"Uniquely remarkable" - the mission of Project Phoenix

by Jonathan Gurnsey - Apr 15, 2020

Jonathan Gurnsey is the chair of Project Phoenix that is attracting and developing new ideas that have the power to rebuild our local community after Covid-19. Jonathan is a global investor and business advisor who lives near Arrowtown. Read about the panel members here. But most importantly read Jonathan's words then enter your idea- there's $85,000 of support available, as well as the panel's connections, experience and advice. Open to residents of Queenstown, Wanaka and Cromwell.

“Phoenix” - that 500 year old mythical bird which rose from the ashes of a funeral pyre, with renewed youth and to remarkably live through another 500 year cycle…or, "a person or a thing that's uniquely remarkable in some respect”. 

Whichever is your understanding, it is all Vital and Extremely Relevant to the here and now within our local community.

Project Phoenix panel Chair Jonathan Gurnsey

Whatever your beliefs maybe on "the virus”, what is undeniable is there will be major effects resulting from this lockdown of our economy and the near collapse of international tourism, for who knows how long.

Its seems likely that there will be a long term negative impact for many businesses in the region involving both mainstream tourism and its many ancillary services and the pilot fish which swim with these. In fact its difficult to imagine anyone escaping unscathed.

There can be little doubt this will shake our community to its core unlike any economic slump that I can recall including the 1987 Crash, the 1998 Asia Crisis, the Bird Flu, SARS, the 2008 Crash.. and any year in the 1970’s, ’80’s, or ’90’s when the ski season (back then our only season) didn’t fire!

What we are just starting to appreciate is that our local economy has become extremely dependent on tourism – and often not high margin tourists, just high numbers of tourists.

I’d suggest the long term, and definitely shorter term, solution for this over-reliance may likely NOT be building more hotels and tourism facilities , this seems to simply be “kicking the can” up a windy path. Instead the all-volunteer team behind Project Phoenix are adamant that our community must "rise from the ashes with renewed youth" and develop a much broader offering, a more diverse economy. An economy which grows to become a Centre of Excellence for any number of industries and endeavours and likely some industries and capabilities I haven’t heard or even dreamt of! 

More exciting opportunities for our local talent, which our schools have an abundance of, and exciting opportunities that will attract high quality International individuals seeking that career/lifestyle balance we all dream of. Sadly I feel that this has become further from the grasp of most locals over the last 5-10 years, ironically years which some would suggest have been the most “successful”, “wealth creative” years the town has seen.  

I suspect not enough of our community would say this recent period has been “the best years of my life” or the “most rewarding and enriching time of my life.”

Many of our community are sharing and posting on social media their hopes for a reset, a pause, a reflection and a fundamental change. However, like most things it doesn’t simply happen because we hope or wish it to happen, or we post it on Facebook!

Like many other local organisations and groups who are doing their best to mobilise for positive lessons to be learned, Project Phoenix’s team is determined to help enable a real change in the long term direction and depth  of our community by attracting and supporting people and ideas “uniquely remarkable in some respect."

Like everything that becomes large and successful, we are starting with the soil and the grass roots, starting local, starting realistically. But we hope, well actually I believe, this will be the catalyst for much more to follow.

Learn all about the Project Phoenix expert panel here.

If you or your family or your best friend have a great idea, take advantage of our enforced lockdown and pour an extra cup of tea and talk via zoom or Skype or over the fence. Talk about that idea, does it have legs, can it fly?

Never has there been a better time to dream big, and at the same time be both supported and practical. It is all within your grasp through Project Phoenix.

Project Phoenix is about inspiring local people to think outside of the box and supporting them in their journey to making a real difference for our community.

Whether it’s a “Brand New Business Idea” , or a,  “Transformation and “Pivot” of an Existing Local Business" or less about business and more a "Community Impact” idea, as long as it would add employment opportunities and potentially open doors to a new business or industry based on our doorstep. PLEASE take the time, make the effort, and, Enter Project Phoenix…Its difficult to think of a more important challenge!

I know that our team of incredibly experienced panellists and sponsors have the power to take the top three ideas and turn them into a rapid and productive reality.

Nothing to lose, but a lot to gain! 

Register for updates and register your entry here.

Project and entry details here.

Thanks to our Project Phoenix sponsors: Two Bearded Men, Whitelaw Mitchell, Mactodd Lawyers and Mountain Club.

Warm regards,

Jonathan Gurnsey
Chair of Project Phoenix

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