Coping with Covid-19 in New Zealand

It is a year since coronavirus started to spread across the world. In our occasional series we hear from PlanetSKI readers who have lived through it out in the mountains. Here’s David Brown from Wanaka in New Zealand.

I read my friend Kevin Young’s perspective on PlanetSKI on the past year living with Covid-19 from his home near Chamonix in the French Alps.

It made me realise how different our experience has been in New Zealand.

I last skied with my mate Kevo in 2019 at Les Contamines /Megeve and St Gervais.

Here’s my story:

I own and operate Wanaka Backpackers Bothy  which up until COVID was a popular hostel for international guests, predominately from Europe, in the mountains of the South Island.

This market has totally gone and we are in full survival mode catering to domestic guests who on the whole are internationals stuck in New Zealand – trying desperately to stay and not return to their home countries.

When COVID hit we went into full lockdown (Level 4) on the 25th March last year in a ‘Declared National Emergency’.

We were not allowed out,  there was no inbound our outbound flights, we were not allowed to work unless from home or in an essential business.

We could not meet others, we couldn’t be beside anyone that was not in our own ‘bubble’.

We fully closed our business and stayed at home for what was an indefinite time.

To be really honest the nation seemed to take the lockdown well as the leadership was fantastic and the “team of 5 Million” just stuck it out and trusted our Prime Minster, Jacinda Ardern.

There were a handful that sought to try to ignore lockdown of course but social media, peer pressure and in some cases the police reeled them in pretty swiftly.

The timing was perfect and to be honest it went pretty quickly as we emerged from lockdown just over a month later on April 27th 2020.

We went into Level 3 restrictions.

Then on 11th May it was to  Level 2 and we were pretty much back to normal on June 8th at Level 1 – just in time for the ski season luckily.

The PM even made a visit to open the ski fields so everyone was happy here in the mountains.

I know  you guys at PlanetSKI covered what was going on in New Zealand in your coverage at the time:

We are still in Level 1 in New Zealand, except Auckland which is currently at Level 2 due to an inbound issue that they are containing.

We currently only have 26 Covid deaths, which is a pretty amazing number, but we did tough it out to get to that point.

It is hard to comprehend what ‘normal’ must be like outside New Zealand.

We had a full ski season hitting the slopes of nearby Cardrona with a small period of Level 2 which really just reduced lift and café capacity.

We were still open and enjoying the winter.

We currently only have restrictions on inbound and outbound flights so unless you are leaving or are a Kiwi you cannot come to New Zealand, unless of course you are sailing in the Americas Cup of course.

Large events still happen.

The kids triathlon that all Wanaka kids basically have to attend still happens, agricultural shows still run and I have the Motutapu Mtn Bike race in a few weeks.

The dark side of our success defeating COVID is not so well in the spotlight.

In May 2020 somewhere between 8,000 & 10,000 people lost their jobs and ability to thrive in Queenstown.

Businesses closed and are still closing all around summer and winter destination towns.

In one week  recently three accommodation providers closed the doors  in Wanaka leaving minimal options open for when things return to normality.

The hospitality industry, whilst still operating, is struggling with the missing tourists and visitors.

Four million visitors came in 2019 with a spend of $11 billion.

That has vanished in the past 12-months and it has made a significant dent into the viability and ability for small businesses to operate.

Earning a living for the staff & owners and create positivity is hard, and as well as we contribute tax revenue to government coffers.

The summer busy period that normally runs from November to Easter time started Christmas week and finished Late January – hardly enough claw back losses and get through to the winter.

We are looking forwards to you hardy skiers being able to visit and maybe even this year we may see some international skiers.

If you are down our way and fancy dropping the knee, hitting the park or making some off piste turns get in touch.

I know the PlanetSKI editor, James Cove, visited my area while on a trip round the ski resorts of the South Island in 2018.

Sadly we didn’t realise we had a mutual friend in Kevin and James was staying in other accommodation so we never met.

PlanetSKI in New Zealand

PlanetSKI in New Zealand

PlanetSKI in New Zealand

PlanetSKI in New Zealand

James took the obligatory photo too when passing through my neck of the mountains.

PlanetSKI in New Zealand

PlanetSKI in New Zealand

So James, and every other PlanetSKI reader, you are all very, very welcome to come and see us when conditions on international travel allow.

Check us out here.

Skiing in New Zealand should be on your bucket list of trips once this pandemic has passed.

If not then add it to your list.

From the mountains of New Zealand we wish you the very best and are pleased to see there is light at the end of your tunnel and ours.