April 30, 2020
Tourism towns face career crisis
The head of South Island whānau ora commissioning agency Te Pūtahitanga says there needs to be special planning to address the long term impact of COVID-19 on tourism towns like Queenstown and Kaikoura.
Helen Leahy says the Ministry for Social Development can’t expect those communities to respond in the same way as areas with a wider range of industries, and they need something specific, including Māori advisors working alongside the ministry.
With Kaikoura’s restart after the 2017 earthquake set back again, and Queenstown unemployment heading for 30 per cent, the jetboat drivers, bungy jump operators and whale watch guides are facing some tough questions about their career and even whether they should relocate.
"In Queenstown in particular, at the beginning of the lockdown, many of the families were saying 'we're okay, we can get on all right, we've got a little bit of resource to get through,' and then suddenly when they job losses occurred they realised they weren't as secure as they thought they were and so we are seeing a big increase in the number of Māori who are coming to our navigator in Queenstown and saying 'help, where to next?' Ms Leahy says.
Meanwhile, Greens co-leader James Shaw says laid off tourism workers could be redeployed to conservation projects.
The Greens have proposed a $1 billion fund to create nature-based jobs to help New Zealand recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.
Mr Shaw says the historical response is to build more roads, but there are alternatives.
"What has been ignored in the past is some of the things we can actually scale up very quickly such as planting trees, particularly along riverbanks, some of the forestry work that we've got to do around the country, pest eradication, trapping, and when you consider that a lot of the jobs that are lost are in tourism, much of which takes place in those exact areas, there is direct transferability," he says.
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