Voices heard on i-Site closure
There was standing room only on the chessboard on Ashburton’s main street on Thursday, as the community gathered to protest the closure of the town’s i-Site visitor centre.
Organised by long-time Ashburton retailer Tony Todd, the lunchtime rally was about sending a message to the Ashburton District Council that the people weren’t happy with the decision.
Experience Mid Canterbury (EMC) announced last month that Ashburton’s i-Site would close following a review, while Methven’s was to remain open, but be restructured.
At the time, EMC general manager Bruce Moffat said there had been a ‘‘really big’’ downturn in numbers going through the doors of the two i-Sites, and in income, as people turned more to online for purchases.
Tourism based businesses were also investing heavily online, and many weren’t producing the physical brochures and flyers they used to either, he said.
But Todd said he was yet to see any support in the community for the closure of the i-Site, which was on Ashburton’s main street, and suggested Ashburton Mayor Donna Favel needed hearing aids, because she was not listening.
‘‘I hope that from now on our mayor and councillors take on board your concerns and open this i-Site immediately,’’ Todd told the hundreds who had started gathering at 11.30am for the 12.15pm rally, which only lasted for about 15 minutes.
Another long-time Ashburton retailer and promoter of Ashburton, Russell Anstiss, agreed.
‘‘You (Mayor Favel) are doing a great job, but you’re doing a lousy one on this,’’ he said.
The rally came the day after EMC announced what service would take the place of the i-Site in Ashburton. EMC board chair James Urquhart said a satellite presence would open in the Ashburton Public Library.
‘‘We received a number of options and looked at the current trends on tourism and tourists accessing information, and wanted to adapt to that without costing the ratepayer,’’ he said.
‘‘We then talked with council and the Ashburton Library and they are happy for the library to house local information brochures, which is a great solution.
‘‘At the same time, our new mobile website has been completed which will make information for visitors much easier to access.’’
Crowds gathered to protest the closure of Ashburton’s i-Site.