Dozens of tourism and hospitality businesses are in line for a rent reprieve as Queenstown Lakes District Council looks to mitigate the social and economic impacts of Covid-19.
The council is also seeking government funding to unlock more than $500m in key infrastructure projects, which it said would create more than 1,600 jobs and upwards of $1bn in economic benefit for the hard-hit region.
At an extraordinary meeting of full council yesterday, councillors voted unanimously to adopt the Rent Relief Policy, which will apply to 717 tenancies, licences and leases throughout the district – including around 75 tourism and hospitality tenancies.
The measure included a two-month rent waiver for affected small-to-medium organisations, and a commitment to provide relief to large organisations affected by Covid-19 on an individual basis “taking into account their terms and circumstances”.
Residential tenants will also be given a 30% rent reduction over a three-month period.
Mayor Jim Boult said that “offering immediate relief means there is a chance more businesses in our district will survive this current global crisis, providing valuable jobs and shoring up our local economy.”
It also hoped its request for $68m in contributions from the $800m Crown Infrastructure Partners’ “shovel ready” fund would kick-start key infrastructure projects – and the economy – throughout the district.
These included plans to transform the town centre and develop the first stages of the arterial traffic routes, enhance the Wānaka lakefront, and upgrade and create new sport, cultural and recreational facilities at the Queenstown Events Centre.
The council said that Covid-19’s significant impact on visitor numbers in the foreseeable future “provides an opportunity to fast-track a number of sizeable projects that have already been proposed or approved, with minimal disruption”.
Boult said: “I, and many of the council team, have been working closely with central Government to advocate for significant support across our district. Our district could be hit far worse than most with over 50% of all jobs in tourism, food, accommodation or construction sectors.
“Investment in these much-needed infrastructure projects will have an important role in supporting the district, both socially and economically, as we move to a new post-Covid-19 normal.”
Separately, the council said it was potentially facing an unprecedented welfare crisis with thousands of people requesting support.
These included migrant workers, many of whom will be essential to the district’s economic recovery, who are currently ineligible for financial support through national channels, according to QLDC.
The district’s council-led Emergency Operations Centre had so far received more than 5,000 requests for welfare assistance from members of the community facing significant hardship due to the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
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