Open Letter to QLDC Candidates

To all Queenstown Lakes District Council candidates,

Winter is vital to our district. It underpins our economy, sews together the fabric of our community, and is integral to our natural environment and identity – who we are, our way of life and why so many of us choose to live in this incredible district.

But sadly, winter is under threat. Projections show that, if climate change is allowed to continue unchecked, the annual average temperatures in Otago could increase by as much as 2.8 degrees Celsius. Our region will become wetter, especially in winter, with up to 27 per cent more potential rainfall predicted in Queenstown [ibid]. To put it bluntly, things are looking bad for our district. Earlier this year, over 130 staff were made redundant at Mt Ruapehu when Tūroa skifield closed, after a lack of snow on the central plateau led to one of the shortest winter seasons in decades. Our Coronet Peak will be amongst those hardest hit by climate change.

But – there is good news. We can protect our winters. 

On 27 June 2019, Queenstown Lakes District Council declared a climate and ecological emergency. That same year, the Council also commissioned a Greenhouse Gas inventory for the district, allowing us to measure and understand our emissions profile. That means that we know how our district is contributing to climate change, and that we have formally committed to mitigating this. 

Through our emissions profile we know that 47% of the emissions of the Queenstown Lakes District are from transport, a number that will only grow as our population does. This is significant; by contrast transport constitutes 17% of Aotearoa New Zealand’s total emissions.

As a local leader, it will be your responsibility to use this information to ensure we avoid the worst effects of climate change. We need your commitment to protect our continued prosperity. Transport emissions are comparatively easy to beat – the simple answer is to improve public transit options in our district. Our environment, economy, reputation as a world-class destination, and the thousands of workers on our ski fields and in our winter industries depend on your action.

Therefore, we are asking for an electric bus network in the Queenstown Lakes District. 

The Otago Regional Council has made this commitment for Dunedin and we can’t afford for Queenstown Lakes to be left out in the cold. We need to be leaders. While rush hour traffic in Queenstown and Wānaka continues to build to unmanageable levels, other New Zealand districts are reducing emissions through the prioritisation of public transport solutions. Our neighbouring districts,who rely far less on winter than we do,are busy innovating and making tangible reductions to their emissions. 

We ask you to imagine a carbon-neutral trip over the Crown Range, from Queenstown to Wānaka, the airport, or to the ski field. Or a clean, fast, reliable trip from Shotover Country or Arrowtown to the Queenstown CBD. We ask that you imagine the pride locals would have as tourists arrive in our district to a world-leading carbon-neutral holiday experience.

As a leader in our community, you will already have the support of our district in making this change, we know that 82% of residents in our district are concerned or very concerned about climate change. We ask that you act to save our district and our winters. Over 100 local residents and businesses have already signed this letter requesting action and those numbers are growing. Electric public transport now!