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The first dump of snow and some chilly mornings means only one thing – our beloved ski season is not far away.

I’m hoping to sneak a few days of skiing in at Coronet Peak and the Remarkables this winter.

Adjusting to life in what is, for now, the new normal means preparing for what would be our busiest time of year in a different way.

While there will be no international visitors to our piece of paradise for the foreseeable future, our fellow kiwis will be sure to make the most of shorter lines at shops and great value for money at our ski fields – not to mention everything else there is to do and see here!

It was fantastic to take part in the laying of foundations for the new Southern Cross Central Lakes Hospital earlier this month.

It has been great working with Andrew Blair over the past three years to get this hospital project started.

It was a special day to actually be on-site and see the work which has been completed so far.

This hospital will provide many public operations which are desperately needed here in Queenstown.

I also must acknowledge and say a special thank you to the Central Lakes Trust who are providing much of the equipment for inside the hospital.

I hosted National’s Spokesperson for Immigration Stuart Smith in Queenstown recently to hear from locals and migrants about the battles they are facing post-Covid-19.

Recently I also brought National leader Todd Muller down here to Queenstown to talk to locals on the ground about how they were fairing post the Covid-19 lockdown.

While he was here he also announced National’s Tourism Accelerator programme to help fund projects which will get our tourism sector back on its feet.

National’s Tourism Accelerator will provide direct cash support to businesses and tourist operators that are currently tossing up whether to re-open or shut up shop for good.

The proposal would see $100 million invested into the tourism sector, where a panel of industry experts would decide where to allocate the money.

This is the main difference to the Government’s tourism policy where officials in Wellington decide where the money should go.

Covid-19 has posed a direct challenge to the tourism industry and our Tourism Accelerator programme is one tool we can use to help the industry rebuild and bounce back.

We are hurting and there is still a long way to go on our road to recovery but initiatives like this are the first step to helping us get back on our feet.

The other is a trans-Tasman bubble.

We all only want our border open when it is safe to do so but businesses need a timeline so they can plan and also keep people in jobs.

We all understand that in the current environment with Covid-19 plans could change but at least it would give people here a chance to plan.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support over the past three years.

We’ve had some big battles in Queenstown.

From lobbying for the return of an Immigration New Zealand office to advocating for the tourism sector and in recent times for support from the Government following Covid-19, lifting the First Home Buyer assistance cap and supporting many locals like Sam Wijerathne and Dinesha Amarasinghe in gaining residency.

The protest march I led through the streets of Queenstown in late 2017 was the first of its kind in New Zealand and another big thank you to the 450 or so of you who turned up to support this wonderful Ski Lankan family.

You made the difference.

We’re still facing what will most likely be the biggest battle of our generation but with our community spirit, we will get through it.

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