$82m Queenstown boost to create 320 jobs - but documents show tourism layoffs could reach 92,000

The Government has announced $85 million for infrastructure projects in Queenstown, which is expected to create 320 jobs - but documents show COVID-19-related tourism job losses could peak at 92,000 this year. 

The $85 million boost for Queenstown will be used for roads, a new transport hub and to improve the town centre. It's the first announcement from the $3 billion infrastructure fund unveiled in Budget 2020. 

"These are what they call shovel-ready projects," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in Queenstown. 

But a Government document dump on Friday of background information related to COVID-19 has revealed some shocking predictions for the tourism industry which Queenstown is heavily reliant upon. 

It showed that job losses in tourism are expected to peak at 92,000 this year. 

While the Government's infrastructure announcement for Queenstown should create 320 jobs in the region, the worst-case prediction for the South Island town is 7000 job losses in the next year. 

The Prime Minister says the wage subsidy has made a difference for Queenstown, but the wage subsidy extension is due to run out on November 1 - which is when the pain will truly hit if the Government doesn't lend a hand. 

Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult is concerned about the future of jobs in his town. 

"Very worried," he told Newshub. "I think a lot of people think that they've got a job at the present time - when the wage subsidy runs out I think a lot of people will find they don't have a job."

Boult said he'd like to see money getting out into the sector quicker, but there are also calls for it to be better directed. 

Fergburger is considered a national treasure in Queenstown, and owner Steve Bradley says more targeted support for tourism and hospitality in the town is needed to lift it out of the COVID-19 crisis. 

"We do need money. We need support. September, October, November are going to be horrific. Our business is 85 percent reliant on international tourism and we don't even know when the [travel] bubble's coming."

Bradley said he doesn't think Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis has engaged enough with the sector. 

Newshub asked Davis what he would say to business owners in Queenstown who say he hasn't consulted with them enough. 

"What we're hearing is the frustration of businesses here in Queenstown," he said. "They're really wanting us to deliver something that we can't actually deliver at the moment and that is the reopening of the borders." 

Davis has at least heard the concerns from some tourism operators by performing a U-turn for those paying to operate on Department of Conservation (DoC) land. 

Until Friday, the DoC had been insisting they pay up - but they no longer have to pay fees to use the land. 

"This does bring genuine relief," said Mary Hobbs who operates glacier tours at Aoraki Mt Cook National Park with her husband Charlie. "It will be of great relief not only to us but to all adventure operators operating on DoC estate." 

It's a good news headline for Ardern following backlash against Health Minister David Clark, after he threw Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield under the bus earlier this week while he was standing right next to him. 

"[Dr Bloomfield's] done an incredible job on behalf of all of us and I know that Dr Clark feels that way too," Ardern said. 

Newshub asked Ardern if the Health Minister should have shared some of the blame for the border quarantine botch-up instead of blaming Dr Bloomfield. 

"From the conversations that I've had with Dr Clark, the sense I have is that it was never his intent," she said.

"Ultimately we are working together as a team, and we need to continue to do that on behalf of New Zealand."

Analysis by Political Editor Tova O'Brien

It felt distinctly like the election campaign was underway on Friday. 

And based on the reception the Prime Minister got in Queenstown - you'll get a real sense of that if you watch the video above - rent-a-crowd and applause was everywhere she went. 

That's versus National leader Todd Muller's reception when he was in Queenstown three weeks ago, which was basically nothing.

That is bad news for National - Queenstown is a true blue seat, and although there are a lot of visitors from around the country, it still shows the Jacindamania of 2017 is alive and well heading into Decision 2020.