Call for certainty on border reopening

Mat Woods
Mat Woods
Wanaka tourism operators need certainty around when the borders will reopen so they can build a workforce and plan to regenerate, Lake Wanaka Tourism chairman Mat Woods says.

About 40 tourism operators raised concerns with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and National Party tourism spokesman Todd McLay at a meeting in Wanaka yesterday.

During the meeting, motelier Peter Sutherland said he feared there was not an equal footing at the border for Australians and Kiwis, and Kiwis would disappear to Australia, adding to Wanaka’s workforce woes.

"Wanaka does not have a local workforce. There are not enough locals here," he said.

Sarah Burdon, who owns The Camp at Lake Hawea, said it was valuable to talk about business values and visions but if cashflows were not there, businesses had to look at staff cuts and winter closures.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said yesterday he hoped to provide an update on opening arrangements by March 31.

The July date for entry for people from visa-waiver nations was now being reviewed, Mr Nash said.

Mr Woods said the meeting with the Opposition representatives had been "really insightful".

"If we roll the clock forward one week we should have been having the A&P Show, which is a massive event for Wanaka and the greater region, a $30million event that we are not going to see because of the pandemic.

"It is a big example of how the pandemic has impacted on Wanaka and the community," he said.

While it was great that the Government had lifted Covid-19 self-isolation requirements for travellers from Australia this week, there was still no actual open border date to work towards and that was a dilemma, he said.

"Do you plan for Easter, do you plan for winter, do you plan for summer?"

Wanaka needed to find a workforce now, and working holiday schemes would help entice people back to the area, he said.

Mrs Dean said Wanaka’s tourism industry had "face-planted" after two to three years of very poor trading conditions.

Some were bearing up and others were only just holding on. There had been a big financial and personal toll on people, she said.

Mr McClay said he and Mrs Dean would continue pushing the Government to announce the border reopening date and on workforce issues.

New Zealand was a bucket-list destination so as soon as the date was announced, people would start booking travel.

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said yesterday he had talked about Wanaka tourism concerns when he met with Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult in February.

The removal of self-isolation requirements for arrivals at the border applied to all visitors, not just returning Kiwis, as long as they tested negative on arrival and after a second test on day five or six, he said.

"Previously, Government had announced that Australians and travellers from visa waiver nations will be able to enter New Zealand without having to go through self-isolation, no later than July. That date is now under review."