Love it or hate it, Queenstown has it all. It's a perfect setting for the Geography boys to study the effects of tourism on people and the environment, as well as to consider, what next for Queenstown...
The second half of the year sees the Year 13 Geography boys change focus from the physical Geography of Coastal Processes to Human Geography with a study of how Tourism has affected Queenstown and how we might look to solve a number of the problems resulting from these massive changes to our favourite playground city.
A Sunday lunchtime start saw us arrive in Queenstown for a briefing from AJ Hackets on the rise and role of Adventure Tourism in the area. We even squeezed in a quick zip line as a reward for our Sunday start. Most surprisingly Bungy number are falling as the demographic of tourists in Queenstown changes from the try everything once back backer to the older but wealthier tourists that Queenstown is now catering for. Queenstown is certainly far more upmarket than this teacher remembers even ten years ago.
Accommodation this year was once again at Southland Ski lodge on Coronet Peak. Away from the temptations of Queenstown and under the watchful supervision of custodians Denis and Lynelle Woods two ex-Johnnies parents who recounted us with tales of their own son Nick's McGlashan Challenge and Boarding House adventures.
Monday morning was an early start with an 8:00 am meeting with Mark Sommerville from NZSki who talked us through their operation and its contribution to the local economy. Coronet Peak opened its first drag lift in 1947 and continues to grow with gondola lifts being added for the 2020 season and the likelihood of a snow-factory that could make snow during the summer season is also in the pipeline for future development.
After Lucas and Quinn fitted chains we headed into the Valley for meetings with Kelly Roos from the Queenstown Lake District Museum to cover the Historical changes experiences by Queenstown before moving onto Gibston Valley Wineries to look at the rise of Viniculture and Vini-tourism. The first grapes were planted in the Valley in 1983 to the amusement and derision of many, today Gibston Valley Winery turns over a tidy $6.5 million a year and is about to open 12 onsite 5 star chalets for your more discerning tourist. Who's laughing now I wonder?
The last stop of the day saw some pretty tired young men rather awkwardly parked up beside an empty lot in the rapidly expanding Shotover Country Development. Julie Scott of the Queenstown Lake District Community Housing Trust kindly made time to talk to us about the Trusts role in helping low to middle-income earners get on the property ladder in Queenstown. With an average house price of $1.2 million many people in Queenstown are having to accept that life long renting is the best they have to look forward to.
Another early start saw the boys chatting with Collette Rogers from Skyline. Collette started out as the photo girl at the bottom of the Gondola ten years ago and is now Business Development Manager for Skyline spending up to five months a year travelling around the world selling Skyline Internationally. 2020 will see Skyline double the size of its base building and replace its current four people Gondolas with ten person carriages. A $200 million dollar investment for future growth. We did, of course, feel bound to do a little luging and support a kiwi owned and operated business that clearly needs the extra cash.
Tuesday lunchtime saw the boys take on Ferg Burger before making their way over to Happiness House were Robyn Francis talked to them about those who aren't doing so well in Queenstown. A sobering conversation about people struggling to get by in a city of plenty with a high cost of living and a low level of Social Services isn't what any of us want to think about when we imagine Queenstown but it is an effect of the rapid growth of the city and can't be ignored by those studying it.
Happiness House sits opposite Queenstown Gardens so we squeezed in a quick round of Frisbee Golf before heading back to the Lodge on Coronet Peak and a little downtime that disintegrated into an impromptu tobogganing competition by the braver members of the group. The bravery award is also extended to Paddy who although not tobogganing did watch on in shorts. It is perhaps important to note he was off sick from school for two days post-trip!
Wednesday morning saw us squeeze in two more meetings with Jess Harkins from Destination Queenstown to discuss the marketing of Queenstown as a Tourist Destination overseas and Luke Pryce from Queenstown Lake District Council Planning Department to cover the nitty-gritty of where to from here with the Development of the city over the next twenty years. Luke covered everything from where will the next new subdivision appear to the pros and cons of Airbnb in a city that is literally bursting at the seams with people looking for a place to call home.
As we headed home It is fair to say that Queenstown as many of us knew it is a thing of the past, even for many of the boys Queenstown has changed out of all recognition in their own lifetimes, as has much of Central. Queenstown has changed since this very same trip last year.
All of this aside Queenstown remains a wonderfully vibrant place to study and enjoy as both student and tourist. A town that will entertain you as quickly as it will empty your pockets Queenstown remains a must-visit destination for anyone wondering down to our part of the world.