Queenstown wants to host Rugby Championship teams

Australia is reportedly being investigated for match-fixing. Photo: Getty Images
Queenstown's mayor wants the Wallabies to be based in the resort for the Rugby Championship, along with the Pumas and the Springboks. Photo: Getty Images
Queenstown has proposed hosting three of the southern hemisphere’s powerhouse rugby teams for about two months during the Rugby Championship.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult is also pushing for a test to be played at the Queenstown Events Centre, although he admitted that was a "tongue in cheek" request.

The championship — Covid-19 alert levels permitting — is scheduled to run in New Zealand from November 7 to December 12.

South Africa, Argentina and Australia are due to stay in New Zealand for the duration of the event.

Mr Boult said, if Queenstown’s bid was successful, the Springboks, Pumas and Wallabies would take over one hotel each in the resort, equating to about 200 hotel rooms, and complete their two-week isolation in the Wakatipu.

He then wanted them to base themselves in Queenstown for the remainder of their time in New Zealand.

"The principal thing we have stressed is that our prime concern here is [preventing] any exposure to locals [from] the teams isolating here.

"They will be in very strict isolation ... and they will not have any exposure to locals.

"They’ll be travelling with their own medical staff, their own service staff, so the risk should be quite low.

"They’re young and fit. They’ll be tested before they leave their home countries and they’ll be tested on arrival here."

Last month, Government ministers and officials visited the region and rejected using Wakatipu hotels as managed isolation facilities.

Before that decision, Mr Boult had concerns about the lack of adequate medical facilities in the district to deal with any outbreak of Covid-19 that might come with any arrivals.

Yesterday, he said he had since been given "bulletproof" assurances by the Ministry of Health that there would be adequate measures in place to deal with any outbreak in the case of the rugby visitors staying in Queenstown.

He could not be specific about the assurances as he was still in discussions with the Ministry of Health.

Mr Boult said he had also had "quite a long chat" with Quarantine Minister Megan Woods and she told him the "Government thinking" was Queenstown could instead host teams during their isolation.

He then talked to New Zealand Rugby and suggested a team could set up a base in the town.

"Pleasingly, that morphed into a proposal to have all three teams based in Queenstown for the duration ... so they’ll be heading here towards two months in total.

"It’s ... clearly pretty exciting."

Sanzaar media spokesman Greg Thomas could not make any official comment on the championship. Planning was not straightforward given circumstances concerning Covid outbreaks "and the various state and federal government restrictions that are often changing daily", he said.

"We are looking at many various options, including venues for matches and teams.

"But again nothing is set in concrete due to the current uncertainty."

Mr Boult said if the plan was approved, teams could start to arrive for isolation towards the end of September.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce interim general manager Craig Douglas said it would be a boost the resort needed.



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