Queenstown mayor Jim Boult believes the town will not survive another year if New Zealand's borders remain closed.
Boult says that while "Queenstown businesses did not cause our borders to close" they are "being asked to pay the price".
Speaking on The AM Show this morning, the Queenstown mayor has, once again, asked the Government for financial aid for local businesses, including a new wage subsidy package and loans for tourism operators to survive until the borders open.
"If we were talking about the inability to export milk powder for two years, would we slaughter all the cows then wait until new ones come along to start the business again? That's what's effectively being asked here," he said.
Boult's comments come after Tourism Minister Stuart Nash said it is not likely that New Zealand will see any overseas tourists in 2021, with the borders more likely to open in 2022.
The Queenstown mayor believes this could spell the end of the town as a tourism destination.
Nash says that businesses that have not been able to switch their customer base from an international to a domestic one, they'll "probably have to have some hard conversations".
Boult described Nash's comments as "gutting".
He says Queenstown is not the only town struggling.
"It's not just Queenstown - it is Te Anau, it's Franz Josef, it's Wānaka, all of those southern tourism towns. The further away from Auckland you go, the harder it is to get domestic business there," Boult said.
"It's not a situation where every business will survive, but we have to make sure the majority do," he added.
He says some businesses are running on 10 to 15 per cent of the revenue they had last year.
"There's talk of pivoting... to a domestic market. If the domestics aren't there, there's nowhere else to go," Boult said.
He said Queenstown has been heavily contributing to the country's GDP and was, for years, "the poster child for what was New Zealand's largest industry".
"Suddenly, we're in our hour of need. We're simply asking for a little bit of that back," he added.
Nash has not taken the possibility of a rescue package off the table and Boult said he is going to keep pressuring the Government to announce one.
Councillor fears Queenstown at risk of becoming 'boarded-up ghost town'
Otago regional councillors are apprehensive about contributing to a proposed $200 million spend on transport projects for Queenstown, if the resort is at risk of becoming a "boarded-up ghost town".
Councillors were asked to endorse further development of the proposed plan, which involves work being completed by the regional council, Queenstown Lakes District Council and NZ Transport Agency, during a meeting of the regional council's strategy and planning committee this week.
The plan could address congestion issues and reduce emissions.
Regional councillors decided they would support it, subject to feedback during public consultation on the regional council's long-term plan, but said they felt it was a risk.
It would cost $1.5m, shared equally between the regional council and NZ Transport Agency over the next two years, to develop the more detailed plan.
Delivering improved bus services in the Wakatipu was estimated to cost $131m between 2024 and 2030, and new infrastructure, including a Queenstown public transport interchange and Frankton public transport interchange, would cost $61m between 2028 and 2030.
The projects and costs would be shared between three organisations.
The plan would rely on 40 per cent of people switching to alternative modes of transport, including walking, cycling and public transport, by 2028.
That would need to increase to 60 per cent by 2048, a staff report to councillors said.
Councillor Michael Deaker called the proposed plan optimistic, considering there were fears Queenstown could become a ''boarded-up ghost town'' before international travellers could return.
''Why would we be doing that if the mayor of the district is accurate in his forecast — for his town being a place of boarded-up businesses?'' Deaker asked.
Council operations general manager Gavin Palmer said the assumption was that Queenstown would be back to pre-Covid levels by 2024, but there was flexibility to defer work, which would be implemented in stages, if the demand for transport increased slower than expected.
When questioned how achievable the 40 per cent mode shift by 2028 was, particularly given the delivery of improved bus services would not happen until 2027, transport manager Garry Maloney said mode shift was not only reliant on public transport, but accepted it would be a challenge.
Without further investment in the Queenstown transport network, it was expected there would be between a loss of $670m to $1.2 billion to the Queenstown economy over a 40-year period, the report said.
If the plan did not go ahead, the road network could be over-capacity for much of the day and the Queenstown town centre would require an additional 3000 car parking spaces, ''basically turning [the town] into a parking lot'', Mr Maloney said.
Councillor Marian Hobbs said while talk had been about endorsing the proposed plan to help solve traffic congestion, the demands of the Climate Change Commission swayed her decision to support it.
"Let us send a signal that we are taking the Climate Change Commission seriously," she said.
Councillor Alexa Forbes said the plan should have a long-term view.
''If we don't get on with this ... we miss the opportunity yet again ...
''If Queenstown takes two years to bounce back, so what? We will then be ready,'' she said.
Councillor Hilary Calvert wanted to hear if Queenstown ratepayers wanted to prioritise paying higher rates for the proposed transport plan while the town was struggling with the economic impacts of Covid-19.
''What I am hearing is they don't even want to pay their rent ... let alone paying higher rates,'' she said.
Councillors decided to endorse the proposed plan, subject to feedback during the regional council's long-term plan consultation process, scheduled to happen in a few months time.
The district council has already endorsed the plan, and the NZ Transport Agency will make its decision on February 24.
- Additional reporting from the Otago Daily Times