In a Visionweek webinar, Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult painted a bleak picture of tourism and the fate of the thousands of migrant workers living in the Queenstown Lakes District.
The casualties of the coronavirus were the migrant workers stranded in New Zealand with no work and no eligibility for benefits he said.
And with tourism coronavirus was like turning off the ignition on the car. It was not a reduction, it was a cessation, he said.
Boult thinks there is still a possibility of a humanitarian crisis.
"We have something in the region of four to five thousand migrant workers, and
unlike Kiwis, they don't get supported by the state if they lose their jobs.
“Through the Civil Defence emergency fund we have paid out in the region of a
million and a half in support packages primarily in food vouchers and utility
vouchers to these folk to keep them going.
"Now with lockdown easing out we are worried that some will be moved out of their houses because they haven't been paying their rent but of more significant
concern is when the supplementary wage runs out. I think a lot of these people
believe they still have a job, but they are going to find they don't.
"What happens then? I am concerned we will have a large number of people who don't have an income, who are in danger of having nowhere to live and I am talking to the government about the type of support those people will need."
We also find tourism, as our largest earner, in a lot of trouble, Boult said.
All industries are affected, but if you take tourism, it's rather like turning the
ignition key off on the car; there is no income, he said.
"Can the district survive with just domestic tourism? We can survive, but we
certainly aren't going to thrive. Tourism is never as lucrative without the
international market. We need Kiwis. The encouraging aspect is that 36 per cent
of our business to Queenstown and Wānaka last year was Kiwis. We need them to come back again in numbers."
If we can get the trans-Tasman bubble operating with Australians coming here, we think we will do okay, Boult said.
"It will be tough, but we will survive.
"The signs have been written on the wall for mass-tourism over the past couple of years. We've seen some push back in our community. Since the 1980s we have been talking about value over volume. No one has cracked the nut, but I think it's time we did that."
We have started seeing a greater interest in culture - interest in the iwi history
around our district, he said.
"And we put several projects for the government shovel ready process. We are hopeful we will get a couple of major projects approved for as well as providing better infrastructure, it's about providing jobs and an economic boost for the
Read edition 979 of the Wānaka Sun here.