Wednesday, 18th December, 2019

Christmas update - labour, transport to end the year

I rashly made a promise in my last update that I would talk transport and labour in my next email, but I didn’t calculate that it would make for a bit of a miserable, not-very-Christmassy read. So, apologies in advance for being a tad Christmas Grinch.

For those of you working through this period ... may your tills ring long and loud, your customers be cheery and appreciative, and the lake stay along way from your front door. Very best wishes for the holiday season and thanks for your support of the Chamber in 2019. I will be on leave until the third week in January and the Chamber offices will be closed from 23 December to 14 January. If there are any urgent queries over this time please call me on my cellphone.

I look forward to catching up in the New Year, our first major event for 2020 is the Deloitte Business & Banter, some heavy hitters are in town for this, Hayley Holt (MC), Sir Richard Hadlee, Rugby Australia's CEO Raelene Castle, author and climber Mark Inglis, 42 Below co-founder Justine Ross and some more gems to be announced in the New Year, registrations open below.

Kind regards
Anna Mickell
Tel 021 488 709


Sept 2019 saw the lowest unemployment rate in Queenstown for 10 years – 1.1% against a national average of 4.2%. A grizzly statistic as we go into the summer season, in the middle of huge immigration policy reform and the looming Fair Pay Act working its way through parliament. Many of our members are feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all. The government are not prepared to support a low-wage economy, they are tired of paying the bill attached to poverty, and this wage pressure is unlikely to go away.

The upshot of all of this, poor labour supply, plus immigration and employment policy driving higher wages, is that most businesses will be facing increased labour costs over the next 12 to 36 months. It is tempting to apply the ol’ kick the can approach in times like this, but increasing labour costs within a business, with all other factors remaining the same, means less shareholder return. Taking the time in your business to consider your pricing, whether you can improve the output of the staff, the suitability of your operating hours, where you can reduce other costs or automate some processes is probably now a necessity for many. My advice … start work now on your response.

It has always been difficult to get staff in Queenstown; the reasons are complex and driven by market conditions and policy (immigration) settings. There is no quick fix and we need to tackle it from multiple angles. Aside from assisting you with education regarding how you can improve your individual business responses, the Chamber continues our strategic and advocacy work.

There has been much work undertaken in the past with respect to the unique labour requirements of our region by my predecessor and many members. For the past six months I have been working with others, including Ignite Wanaka, building on this past work, we have formed a Queenstown-Lakes regional labour force working group – newly named MahiQL. This group has three workstreams: local labour levers, immigration policy and new arrival settlement.

MahiQL aims to be a significant contributor to the new Otago Regional Workforce Leadership Group being set up by MBIE. We are advocating for a separate Queenstown-Lakes sub-committee to be set up within the Otago group and will write our own Queenstown-Lakes workforce development plan and commence implementation. In this plan we will identify national workforce development initiatives (construction, hospitality, tourism) and, when appropriate, ensure they are well implemented locally. We will reinforce the unique characteristics of our market, especially with respect to our reliance on migrant labour.

I would like to thank our members who have generously contributed their staff to assist Sharon Fifield (QLDC economic development advisor) and myself work on this plan. You can see the group members hereA special thanks to the folks at Millbrook who have designed our MahiQL logo. Their contribution has made us come alive.

Before moving on from this topic, if you are feeling overwhelmed by the difficulty of running your business, please always feel free to give me a call to have a confidential chat. Your Chamber is here to support you.


The board and I continue to keep moving forward slowly with a small group of Chamber members (a special thanks to Harrison Grierson’s Alistair Snow) and Shaping our Future on the establishment of a transport management association. We have had a few false starts but are gratified by the encouragement of the Way to Go (ORC, QLDC and NZTA) senior leaders.

Phew, it’s hard work. But we are not giving up and here’s why.

By 2028 we need to have 40% of passenger movements in Queenstown undertaken by public or active (that’s transport language for walking, cycling, scootering or skedaddling along) transport. At present we are less than 8%. The transport planners are saying that with our rate of growth, if we don’t achieve this mode-shift (transport language again, meaning out of car onto bike or bus) then our road network will fail (transport language again, meaning the cars are pretty well at a standstill). Aside from the social consequences of congestion (it makes us miserable), the impact on business productivity is, frankly, dire.

40% of non-car passenger movements is an ambitious goal. I am fortunate to see the work being undertaken by the Way To Go (NZTA, QLDC and ORC) planners and are largely supportive of their goals. There are some great initiatives underway, including by Queenstown Airport, however we need to also factor in the education and promotion of the behavioural and cultural changes that go alongside this extent of mode-shift. Other successful resort towns use private-public transport management associations to successfully spearhead this work.

Next year could you consider active or public transport one day a week or help by being a mode-shift advocate in your workplace?

P.S Another transport term: multi-modal travel means bus and bike, or bike and walk or bus and scootering.

Other CEO activities in brief this month

  • I have been continuing to represent members on the Aurora Energy Consumer Advisory Panel. We are wrapping up a report that will be submitted as part of Aurora's application to the Commerce Commission in support of their application to lift their cost cap (and put up prices). 

  • We have announced our partnership with the Wakatipu High School Foundation.  Read press release here.

  • Hopefully lake levels will remain low over the festive period. You can keep track of lake and river levels here and check out the Otago Civil Defence Emergency Management site for flood-related advice.

  • No new updates on local visitor levy from QLDC or Department of Internal Affairs. Met with new head of public policy at AirBnB who is keen to ensure equitable application across the accommodation sector.

  • Chamber offices out of action as we downsize our space to reduce rent costs for 2020. Expect this work to be complete this week.

  • Chamber did verbal statement against the poorly planned launch of Lime Scooters into Queenstown at the last QLDC council meeting, however did express support for scooters of some types, in some parts of Queenstown (not Downtown).

2020 Dates for the diary - further details below:

  • 28 January: Business after 5: Mountain Club & Officemax - registrations open January

  • 19 March: Deloitte Business & Banter, Winehouse - registrations open below

  • 2 April: epay Chamber Golf Tournament, Millbrook Resort - registrations open January

  • 5 June: Westpac Chamber Women’s Conference, Hilton - registrations open January

Apologies for grammatical hiccups. Written without the assistance of a communication professional.