Boult’s am­bi­tious plan for Queen­stown

Central Otago Mirror - - OUT & ABOUT - DEB­BIE JAMIESON

New Queen­stown Lakes mayor Jim Boult has taken over the helm at a time when Queen­stown’s stock is high.

Of­ten de­scribed as the jewel in New Zealand’s tourism crown, it has a boom­ing pop­u­la­tion, the sec­ond high­est num­ber of vis­i­tors in the coun­try be­hind Auck­land and has just be­come the sec­ond town (again be­hind Auck­land) to hit a me­dian house value just over $1 mil­lion.

But the grow­ing pains are sub­stan­tial. Hous­ing is be­com­ing un­af­ford­able. Traf­fic is grid­locked at key times of the day. The re­sort is on the verge of run­ning out of ho­tel beds and Lake Wakatipu, one of the town’s big­gest at­trac­tions, is threat­ened by a re­volt­ing al­gae no one seems to know much about.

Boult is tak­ing this in his stride. His re­sponse is mea­sured but ur­gent.

‘‘There are mul­ti­ple is­sues on mul­ti­ple fronts to deal with so it re­quires quite a struc­tured ap­proach to fig­ure out what’s most im­por­tant,’’ he says.

He has de­scribed the new coun­cil un­der his lead­er­ship as the ‘‘can-do-coun­cil’’.

It is an ap­proach that has served Boult well through a suc­cess­ful busi­ness ca­reer at Sho­tover Jet and on boards in­clud­ing Tourism New Zealand, the Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity and the trou­bled Christchurch-based Stonewood Homes fran­chise.

Last year he was made an Of­fi­cer of the New Zealand Or­der of Merit for ser­vices to tourism and the com­mu­nity.

Through­out he has main­tained his base at his Lake Hayes home on the out­skirts of Queen­stown where he lives with wife Karen and where chil­dren James and Vic­to­ria have pro­gressed through the lo­cal Wakatipu High School.

He has con­tin­ued to serve on boards of lo­cal com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Real Jour­neys, and given his time to the com­mu­nity as a mem­ber of the Shap­ing Our Fu­ture steer­ing group and helped es­tab­lish Friends of Lake Hayes in 2007 to re­store the lake’s wa­ter qual­ity.

It is this com­pas­sion for his home that mo­ti­vated him to stand for the may­oralty, he says.

‘‘I took it on be­cause I’ve been here for 35 years and I re­ally like liv­ing here and there’s some things hap­pen­ing that I wasn’t happy about. It was the chal­lenge of say­ing ‘well, can I change things for the bet­ter?’’’

At the top of the list was Queen­stown’s widely ac­knowl­edged hous­ing af­ford­abil­ity cri­sis, some­thing that wor­ries him.

He has al­ready es­tab­lished a may­oral task­force, led by new coun­cil­lor John Mac­Don­ald, in an ef­fort to find out why hous­ing is so ex­pen­sive in Queen­stown.

‘‘I’d like to un­der­stand what the driv­ers are that are caus­ing house prices to be so high here. Then, with that un­der­stand­ing, what do we do about it?’’

Next on the list is trans­port. ‘‘Fly­ing into the air­port the other day, se­ri­ously, it took me the fat end of three quar­ters of an hour to get in here which is just crazy.’’

In­fra­struc­ture is the key, and while he was pleased to be able to an­nounce the be­gin­ning of con­struc­tion of Hawthorne Drive – a long awaited by­pass road around Frank­ton, he says it should have hap­pened much ear­lier.

The other re­ally big is­sue is pub­lic trans­port. and he has met with NZTA and the Otago Re­gional Coun­cil to scope out a process for a re­vi­talised pub­lic trans­port sys­tem. Op­tions in­clude light rail, a wa­ter­borne sys­tem or a dif­fer­ent form of bus.

‘‘I want a pub­lic trans­port sys­tem that is so good, so fre­quent and so af­ford­able that it’s just the de­fault method for get­ting around the dis­trict by lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike, and I will be look­ing for a con­tri­bu­tion from a vis­i­tor levy to help pay for that.’’

The vis­i­tor levy. It was key to Boult’s cam­paign and a fo­cal point in this year’s elec­tion.

Boult is not fussed on how the levy will op­er­ate but is clear that for the Queen­stown Lakes com­mu­ni­ties it is a ‘‘must have’’.

‘‘It’s un­rea­son­able to think that our 20-odd thou­sand peo­ple that live here should pay for the 4.8 mil­lion vis­i­tor nights we had last year.’’

At the same time he is hop­ing to en­cour­age more ho­tel de­vel­op­ment, as Queen­stown in­creas­ingly finds it­self putting out the ‘‘No Va­cancy’’ signs.

Also of con­cern is the al­gae found in Lake Wanaka and now Lakes Wakatipu and Hawea known as lake snow or lake snot.

‘‘The trou­ble is I don’t know what’s caused it and I haven’t found any­body who does seem to know what’s caused it.’’

He is putting pres­sure on the Otago Re­gional Coun­cil to find some an­swers and do some­thing about it and he wants them to be proac­tive.

As he works through his lists, Boult has two key goals in mind. If he achieves them, he will have com­pleted the job he came to do, he says.

‘‘When I don’t have em­ploy­ers say­ing they can’t get peo­ple to come to town be­cause it’s too ex­pen­sive to live here. Sec­ondly, when I see a fab­u­lous pub­lic trans­port sys­tem that is recog­nised as the best in any re­sort area in the world.’’ Am­bi­tious? Yes, he says.

But: ‘‘If you don’t have a dream, you don’t have a plan and you never know where you’re go­ing.’’

DEB­BIE JAMIESON

Queen­stown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult over­look­ing cen­tral Queen­stown.

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