Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) is delighted to be recognised for its efforts to support business recovery following the local impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Economic Development New Zealand (EDNZ) awarded the QLDC Recovery and Economic Development teams a Commendation in the Business Support Recovery Initiatives category at an awards ceremony held in Palmerston North on Thursday 27 May.
QLDC’s Economic Development Manager Peter Harris said he was thrilled with the award and proud of his team, the wider recovery effort across Council, and the collaborative work with other agencies.
“This last year has been incredibly tough for our business community, but one of the positive outcomes has been the collaboration across a wide range of organisations working towards business recovery in our district,” said Mr Harris.
Prior to COVID-19, six out of ten Queenstown Lakes workers were reliant on tourism for an income, and four out of ten workers were dependent on international visitor spend.
“A popular misconception is that most tourism businesses in the Queenstown Lakes District were ‘creaming it’ – this is simply not the case; they were small operators who paid significant commissions to sales agencies. Many were investing to keep up with the recent growth in the industry and were reliant on a flow of visitors, and workers. Their margins were tight, and their balance sheets were fragile. This meant when COVID-19 hit, many businesses had little leeway.”
In the first week of lockdown, an informal alliance dubbed the Business Response Group (BRG) was established, which included QLDC’s own economic development unit, Lake Wānaka Tourism, Ignite Wānaka, Destination Queenstown, Queenstown Chamber of Commerce, and Otago Regional Business Partner Network.
The BRG met online daily during lockdown to create consistent communication and act as ‘one source of truth’ for businesses.
The economic development team worked with BRG members, regional business partners, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Council’s Community Development team to support local people and businesses.
This included initiatives to create updated economic data to help decision making; support for community leaders; access to the Employee Assistance Programme for small and medium enterprises; job fairs; and a drop-in centre for local workers needing support.
Mr Harris acknowledged it was still a challenging and uncertain time for business owners and employees.
“Our business community will take time to recover, but we are confident that the collaboration we have built during the pandemic will help the community come out the other side of this crisis.”
(credit Peter Harris)