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A well-known Queenstown property developer has urged the Queenstown Lakes District Council to take a ‘‘big deep breath’’ and conserve whatever cash was in the coffers until the full effects of the Covid-19 crisis are more clear.
John Guthrie spoke to councillors during yesterday’s annual plan submissions hearing and said he had ‘‘never seen anything that comes close to what we’re going through at the moment’’.
‘‘I think we’re going to have hotels that are going to go broke, we’re going to have Airbnbs that are going to go broke.
‘‘[Accountant] Donald Jackson ... he thinks half the restaurants in town are going to go under.
‘‘I smell a very, very hard time for ... 18 months, at least.’’
Mr Guthrie said there were projects which needed to be done — the top priority for him was beautification of the Queenstown CBD — but asked the council not to ‘‘go mad with the cheque book’’.
‘‘At the moment you should be conserving what cash the council’s got, keeping our powder dry, tidying the town up, making it as beautiful as possible for the tourists that we can get to come back and concentrate on quality, not quantity.
‘‘I haven’t got one tenant, including council, who hasn’t asked me for a rent holiday or rebate.
‘‘You tell me what that tells you.
‘‘We’ve got to be very careful at this stage.’’
Gillian Macleod, a former district councillor, agreed money should be spent on ‘‘small projects that work well’’, but she also had concerns about the ‘‘big picture’’.
She was one of many who said now was not the time for the council to forge ahead with a new headquarters in the CBD, and also disagreed with money being spent on arterial routes.
On the bypass, lawyer Graeme Todd said there were ‘‘no real development opportunities’’ in areas where the bypass was looking to be provided, other than on Man St, at the Lakeview site.
‘‘But for the rest of it, it’s just a waste of money as far as I’m concerned.’’
Mr Todd believed the resort would not see any recovery for ‘‘some considerable time’’ and referred to an item on the news yesterday, which stated more than 50% of Americans would not self-vaccinate if a Covid-19 vaccination became available.
‘‘That sort of thing is going to cause massive problems in terms of us opening our borders into the future.
‘‘I think the tail of this thing is going to be extended well beyond what we think.
‘‘I also don’t think, unfortunately, we’ve seen the full impact locally in terms of employment and business ... we’re probably not going to see the full effect of that for another three or four months.
‘‘So I’m pleading for caution from you,’’ he said.
He also believed the council should not be building new chambers ‘‘at a time when landlords in this town are going to need all the support they can get’’ and described the money leaving Queenstown through the council’s consultancy fee budget as ‘‘absolutely frightening’’.
Michael Hanna told councillors they were in a unique position to ‘‘re-set the future’’.
‘‘We need to recognise a growing concern amongst the community that more is not necessarily best.
‘‘This annual plan continues to principally be driven by increased visitor and resident numbers.
‘‘You guys have to remember you represent us, the community.
‘‘You don’t represent interested parties who have vested interests in continued growth and development.
‘‘Just remember, there’s a great community here, and we would like to have our community protected as much as possible.’’
At a glance
- Kai Tahu (Aukaha), $150,000
- Queenstown Trails Trust, $75,000
- Sport Otago/Sport Central, $35,000 + GST
- Startup Queenstown Lakes Trust, $220,000
- Te Ao Marama Inc, $30,000
- Wakatipu Transport Management Association, $120,000
- Wakatipu Wilding Conifer Control Group Inc, $500,000
- Whakatipu Wildlife Trust, $35,000