River tourism wait­ing to be re­alised by au­thor­i­ties

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - EL­TON RIKIHANA SMALLMAN

Big strides are be­ing taken to turn the Waikato River into the cen­tre of tourists’ at­ten­tion.

The sec­ond stage of Hamil­ton’s $4.9 mil­lion Vic­to­ria on the River de­vel­op­ment be­gins in April, funds have been com­mit­ted to river fa­cil­i­ties and mo­men­tum is build­ing across the sec­tor.

Cul­tural tourism is key to tourism, too, and with the river pro­vides a unique of­fer­ing, said Tainui Waka Tourism Inc sec­re­tar­iat of­fi­cer Craig Muntz.

‘‘The in­dus­try ac­knowl­edges there is a need for new prod­uct to an­chor vis­i­ta­tion in the re­gion,’’ Muntz said.

‘‘The river pro­vides the point of dif­fer­ence as our iconic ge­o­log­i­cal fea­ture that runs through the heart of the re­gion.’’

Muntz is de­vel­op­ing the Waikato River Fes­ti­val, which kicked off at the source of the Waikato River at the Ton­gariro Na­tional Park.

The fes­ti­val will recog­nise the 425-kilo­me­tre river sys­tem as a sin­gle body of wa­ter and aims to de­velop more at­trac­tions along the river.

Sev­eral in­de­pen­dent events are at­tached to the fes­ti­val, which runs in the month of March.

They in­clude the Haka Maori Arts and Cul­tural event at Hamil­ton Gar­dens, the Tupuna Awa ex­hi­bi­tion by renowned Waikato artist Fred Gra­ham dur­ing Maadi Cup week at Kara­piro Do­main, and the pro­mo­tion of sig­nif­i­cant cul­tural sites on the river.

’’The vi­sion is that be­tween the source and the sea, we will de­velop a wide range of ac­tiv­i­ties that re­flect dif­fer­ent stake­holder groups in the river, be that en­vi­ron­men­tal, ed­u­ca­tional, cul­tural, recre­ational, or eco­nomic and share our sto­ries with the world.’’

Waikato is the fifth-largest tourism re­gion in the coun­try by value at $1.39 bil­lion in rev­enue and it’s un­der utilised, said Hamil­ton and Waikato Tourism chief ex­ec­u­tive Ja­son Dawson.

‘‘There is lots of phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity on the river, but when we talk prod­uct in tourism, we talk about com­mis­sion­able prod­uct - things that we can ac­tu­ally book, pay for and ex­pe­ri­ence and get some value out of it,’’ Dawson said.

Coun­cil is pro­vid­ing a kick­start to fund­ing, but Dawson said a com­mu­nity-based, mixed­fund­ing model is the most ef­fec­tive way to get op­er­a­tions started.

‘‘If we had more prod­uct around the river, ob­vi­ously more hotel ac­com­mo­da­tion, which the city is look­ing closely at, then that could po­ten­tially try to in­crease the yield of tourism even more in Hamil­ton and the wider Waikato.’’

Waikato River Ex­plorer man­ag­ing di­rec­tor and skip­per Dar­ren Mills said the po­ten­tial of the river is huge. But with 6000 tourists wait­ing to come through the Hamil­ton city each day to tour the river, ‘‘po­ten­tial’’ might also be the biggest prob­lem.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.