Monday, 2nd September, 2019

Recently, Chair Bridget Legnavsky penned the below opinion piece in response to a request for comment about the development of Wanaka Airport by the Wanaka App. Below is the response in full.

As a membership organisation the Chamber cannot advocate strongly one way or the other… unless of course we have an overwhelming majority of our membership agreeing on an issue that will significantly effect business in this town. In the airport discussion, similar to the visitor levy discussion, we know we have members with differing opinions and we absolutely respect these.

Our role is to gather and circulate accurate and professionally sourced information so that we can have well educated, respectful and safe conversations. We do not want our business community fighting against each other and feeling too nervous to give their opinions or ask questions. Most of the time our role will be in helping our businesses prepare and adapt for change. For this we need to ensure we are delivering current and accurate communication and coordinating expert training and advice.

In general we see the Airport as part of the bigger conversation of what we want Wanaka’s business community look and feel like in 20 years time. To most of us the Wanaka airport development will be an outcome in the evolution of a popular and successful town. There is no doubt that we want to see economic and social success for our businesses which does mean we will continue to support business growth.

Currently we are experiencing a flattening in tourism, which will affect all local business owners. In a flat climate our tourism businesses will hold back on any developments & further investment until the forecasts look more promising. Some businesses will start to scale back and reduce offerings &/or operations. This will create a reduction in employment and redundancies. The loud vocal noises about too many people and the use of over tourism scare tactics is a real concern for our business community and our reputation as a place to visit. We need to have growth to continue improving, to deliver excellence and stay operating as external costs continue escalating at speed (rent, legal, compliance).

We have major concerns around affordability of housing and costs of living. We are very aware that any restrictions to growth will make things like the basics in Wanaka more scarce. With scarcity we absolutely know that these basics will become more expensive. It is a very simple economic equation. Immigration has made it very clear that they will continue to tighten up and that they want more kiwis employed and paid better. If all of this happens we will have to change our business models fast so that we can pay much higher wages and offer far more benefits. The inevitable outcome will be a combination of prices rising and margins decreasing. Those businesses that can’t handle these changes will become unsustainable and prices for local people will keep increasing – making the town more difficult, than it is already, to survive in.

Many of our local business people travel and use Queenstown airport regularly – some daily. Demand for seats on flights will continue to increase and without an increase in capacity the only thing that will happen is that prices will escalate. More costs to businesses and probably becoming unaffordable.

It is very high on all of our members agendas that we continue to look after our environment. For many of our businesses, it is our beautiful environment that is the experience they are offering to our visitors. We know that our decisions need to ensure that our place continues to stay beautiful and to do this we need to look at ways to give back. Reducing environmental impacts just aren’t enough anymore.

The chamber is focused on keeping its view balanced and on the future of our town. This is to ensure that our businesses can continue to succeed, constantly improve and stay operating into our future. Economic sustainability, social sustainability and environmental sustainability have to work together. 

For our businesses we want to be an effective voice in the development of the airport. We want to be involved in all consultation to ensure it develops in a way that has the balance we have referred to and as such, best services our businesses. We have been focused on building positive relationships with QAC and the QLDC in order to be respected and brought into all conversations with our input well considered. We feel that this is the most important thing we can do right now – for our chamber members. 

Bridget Legnavsky

Chair, IGNITE Chamber of Commerce - Wanaka