Same as Auckland - but different too
I never thought I’d hear myself say this but we appear to have a lot in common with New Zealand’s largest city: Auckland.
Let me put this in context though – I’ve always thought the term ‘Jafa’ stood for just another fabulous Aucklander after I figured out how much value they delivered to our town through their very frequent visits to our part of the country.
However, this last week I had the opportunity to sit with Phil Goff, Mayor of Auckland, and compare some of the issues that face the Queen city and our local district.
High on the list of course was traffic congestion. We all know the frustrations of sitting in long traffic jams at Frankton but every time I go to Auckland I’m reminded, on the way to and from their airport, that maybe our position isn’t that bad.
That said, I think we have a fix coming for ours with the Eastern Access Road, the opening of the Kawarau Bridge and the eventual double laning (and new BP roundabout) of State Highway 6.
Auckland’s fix must involve some form of light rail and while a scheme has been tabled, it’s many many years in the future. I think our problems are eminently more fixable.
However, the principal part of our discussion related to the spend required for tourism infrastructure.
Like us, Auckland is significantly affected (through its position as the main New Zealand gateway) by the massively increasingly number of tourists we welcome to our shores annually.
Mayor Goff’s fix for this has been his recently announced targeted rating aimed at accommodation providers. I much prefer a direct visitor levy, as that is transparent and justifiable but I understand Mayor Goff’s frustration and his resultant introduction of the new rating charge.
Queenstown Lakes District already has a targeted rating charge aimed at accommodation providers, but personally I don’t favour increasing that as it does place an unfair burden on the accommodation sector.
The other area of commonality for Auckland and Queenstown is of course the cost of housing.
In this respect, I was encouraged to hear a recent address by Reserve Bank Governor Graeme Wheeler who has the view that the continued increase in housing prices has probably tapered off.
He did not however, see a lowering of house values as there is continuing demand from net migration and from a significant number of kiwis living in Australia and now returning to their birth country. That underscores the need for us to continue with our efforts to address the cost of housing through the Mayoral task force.
I look forward to seeing some progress on this later on in the year.
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult.