Queenstown mayor calls for Aucklanders to follow COVID-19 gathering advice as conference begins

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult is calling on Aucklanders to follow the Government's advice around gatherings as the Morgo Conference kicks off on Thursday.

Concerns have been raised about Aucklanders travelling to a Queenstown hotel for the tech conference on Thursday and Friday.

New Zealand is currently at COVID-19 alert level 2, with gatherings restricted to 100 people. However, Auckland is in alert level 2.5 where gatherings are capped at 10.

Because of this, Health Minister Chris Hipkins on Wednesday said Aucklanders shouldn't be attending the Queenstown conference.

"We're asking Aucklanders to continue to take their alert level with them, so the alert level restrictions in Auckland suggest you shouldn't be attending gatherings of more than 10 people."

On Thursday morning, Boult told The AM Show Aucklanders should follow the restrictions, but questioned how it could be policed.

"It would be good if they abided by the guidelines which I understand the Government has put a bond around 10 people only gathering in a group, '' he said.

"The trouble is, how do you identify Aucklanders from anybody else? You can't go to the airport and stamp a big 'A' on their heads."

Host Duncan Garner said Hipkins even urged Aucklanders to not travel, despite freedom of movement allowed domestically under level 2.5. 

Boult said he didn't agree with that.

"I got a call from the Prime Minister [Jacinda Ardern] the other day and that wasn't the message I got from that call. It is simply around the numbers at gatherings. Aucklanders and fellow Kiwis, I understand they can travel around the country if they want to."

He said it was important for Aucklanders, and people from all around New Zealand to visit Queenstown, especially with the tourism hotspot struggling after the COVID-19 restrictions wiped out the international market.

"We need [Aucklanders] here. We need the economy to get ticking over again and this is the best thing that can happen for us but equally, we don't want COVID-19 in our part of the world either."

He said $1.9 billion was "ripped out of our economy" by the disappearance by the international tourists and they need domestic tourists.

"I'm really, really worried about the future. Through the domestic market, I think we can keep our nose above the water but she's pretty tough out there. I really feel sorry for businesses in our district and for employees and everybody actually. People are worried."

He said he is meeting the Finance Minister Grant Robertson in the coming weeks and plans to put some proposals forward which he hopes will get "a fair hearing".