Marl­bor­ough cut of from growth

The Press - - News - JEF­FREY KITT

The clo­sure of State High­way 1 con­tin­ues to hit Marl­bor­ough’s vis­i­tor econ­omy, with lat­est tourism spend fig­ures show­ing zero growth.

Marl­bor­ough ranked last of all re­gions in New Zea­land in Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment es­ti­mates for June.

Tourism in­sid­ers said the dis­rup­tion to travel net­works fol­low­ing last year’s Novem­ber 14 quake con­tin­ued to hurt.

How­ever, they were hope­ful an up­graded State High­way 1 would reap ben­e­fits for the re­gion in years to come.

Marl­bor­ough earned $370 mil­lion from tourism in the yearend­ing June. This equated to zero per cent growth com­pared with year-on-year fig­ures.

The tourist spend for the month of June equalled $16m, a drop of 6 per cent over the pre­vi­ous month. The na­tional av­er­age showed an 11 per cent in­crease.

The re­sults come as nearby re­gions West Coast and Tas­man in­creased their tourism econ­omy, by 15 per cent and 12 per cent re­spec­tively, over the year to June 2017.

‘‘I’m dis­ap­pointed we’re the low­est, ab­so­lutely, but I can un­der­stand why we’re the low­est,’’ she said. ‘‘This is not an on­go­ing trend, it’s just that our key ac­cess route has been to­tally turned off. When the road re­opens, we will see a swing back.’’

The River­lands Road­house bor­dered State High­way 1.6 kilo­me­tres south of Blen­heim.

Owner Chris Wag­ner said traf­fic on the road had calmed down sig­nif­i­cantly since the 7.8-mag­ni­tude earth­quake.

The high­way was ex­pected to re­open in De­cem­ber, with a walk­ing and cy­cling trail set to be in­cor­po­rated into the re­build.

The new and im­proved road of­fered a big op­por­tu­nity for Marl­bor­ough go­ing for­ward, Wag­ner said. ‘‘It will be faster, safer, give bet­ter ac­cess to the re­gion and take cy­clists off the road.

‘‘It is an awe­some op­por­tu­nity,’’ he said. ‘‘We’ve been handed an amaz­ing op­por­tu­nity, we have to take full ad­van­tage of it. Marl­bor­ough has so much to of­fer. It sim­ply shouldn’t be a pass-through area.’’

A plan to cre­ate a trail be­tween Ship Cove in the Marl­bor­ough Sounds and Cathe­dral Square in Christchurch, named the Coastal Pa­cific Trail, had been touted since Jan­uary.

Wag­ner had al­ready formed a 150-me­tre sec­tion of the prospec­tive Pic­ton-to-Christchurch trail on his prop­erty in an­tic­i­pa­tion of the project go­ing ahead.

The en­tre­pre­neur also launched his own free­dom camp­ing con­cept Ki­wiCamp in March which let free­dom campers park the night for free but charged a small fee to ac­cess hot show­ers and wash­ing ma­chines.

Marl­bor­ough needed to el­e­vate its pro­file to tourists and the next few years were cru­cial, Wag­ner said.

‘‘For us to have such low num­bers is very alarm­ing. A lot of it is to do with the road, but it shouldn’t be that low,’’ he said.

‘‘We have the best wines, the Marl­bor­ough Sounds. To not be a tourism mecca is ab­so­lutely crim­i­nal.’’

Des­ti­na­tion Marl­bor­ough had launched a do­mes­tic cam­paign ti­tled Never Been Bet­ter to at­tract vis­i­tors in Nel­son, Welling­ton and Auck­land.

Win­ter was typ­i­cally quiet for tourism in the re­gion, but changes to road ac­cess meant it was a good op­por­tu­nity to lure do­mes­tic vis­i­tors from parts other than Can­ter­bury, Lloyd said.

‘‘Marl­bor­ough is beau­ti­ful in win­ter, so we’re try­ing to cre­ate that ur­gency,’’ she said.

A cam­paign in Can­ter­bury was planned to bring those vis­i­tors back once the road re­opened, Lloyd said.

PHOTO: STUFF

River­lands Road­house em­ployee Ge­orge Ilko be­side a part of State High­way 1 that has been closed since the Novem­ber earth­quake.

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