Outstanding is the only way to describe the Queenstown community’s reaction to New Zealand’s recent Delta outbreak.
After an incredibly trying 18 months, our town was again asked to make huge sacrifices for the safety of not only our own region, but the whole of New Zealand.
In typical Queenstown style, our residents rallied together to do what was needed.
Essential workers across many sectors showed their dedication by keeping our region going in trying circumstances.
Healthcare workers were among those leading the charge, administering vaccinations at sites across the Lakes District.
Your combined efforts have led to the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) catchment being ranked the second best in the country for the percentage of the population to have had their first jab – and we are not far off being the best.
That puts our region in good stead with many booked in to get their second injection.
As vaccination rates keep increasing the bottom line is simple.
The Government must formulate a practical international border reopening strategy that both protects our communities and ends 18 months of suffering for local businesses and the tourism and hospitality sector.
Nations around the world are opening their borders and opening up opportunities for tourism and larger-scale events as a direct result of their approach to vaccination.
New Zealand has been well behind them, ranked 121st in the world until very recently, but thankfully we are starting to catch up.
The first thing we need is an internal border plan with Auckland still in Level 4.
Domestic tourism is heavily dependent on visitors from Auckland and the Government needs to outline a plan that addresses the need to restart domestic tourism as we work towards Level 1.
News that the Minister for COVID Response Chris Hipkins is signalling that the Government’s plans for an international border reopening, announced last month, are being reconsidered is concerning.
The reality is that we need a game plan for how we will eventually reopen, acknowledging that there will inevitably be some surprises along the way that require the plan to be amended.
Cafes, bars, restaurants and other businesses reliant on tourism simply cannot continue to sustain fixed costs without visitors, and need a see a strategy from Government that they can work towards.
Perhaps they could take their lead from Greens co-leader James Shaw who is flying to Glasgow for climate change talks in November.
Mr Shaw has clearly taken the view that business must continue as the pandemic goes on and that is a message his fellow Ministers must also acknowledge.
I will certainly be continuing my campaign for the Government to answer the calls of our region to implement a practical pathway for revitalising our most crucial tourism industry, as well as addressing our long-running immigration and workforce concerns.
The most pressing issue right now which the Government must address is the need to support our many small and medium sized, family owned and operated businesses.
After 18 months of very challenging trading conditions these vital businesses were required to shut down again under Level 3 and 4 and are now operating under very limiting Level 2-D conditions.
The Government must address the fact that small and medium sized businesses do not have the resources to keep paying for their fixed costs while shut down or operating well below capacity due to closed borders both internally and internationally.
The reality is that tourist regions like ours are built on the hard work of small businesses and their teams who form a crucial part of our community.
Thank you to everyone who is doing their very best during a challenging time.
If history is any guide, difficult times like these will be followed by boom times.
It is important that we take care of each other and ourselves in the meantime while we navigate the challenges in front of us.
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