A bold new vi­sion for Auck­land

Weekend Herald - - Front Page - Si­mon Wil­son

Martin Sned­den has a new mis­sion. The man who ran New Zealand’s host­ing of the Rugby World Cup in 2011 wants to save Auck­land.

Or save the visi­tors to Auck­land. Or both.

Sned­den has been chair­ing a group of busi­ness and public sec­tor lead­ers, charged with guid­ing the cre­ation of a brand new vis­i­tor plan for the city. That plan, called Des­ti­na­tion AKL 2025, was launched yes­ter­day by Min­is­ter of Tourism Kelvin Davis and Auck­land Mayor Phil Goff.

The prob­lem the new plan ad­dresses is this: Visi­tors ar­rive in Auck­land and it’s beau­ti­ful, but then it rains and they can’t go to the beach be­cause there’s sewage in the sea. They hear about the unique cul­ture of the tan­gata whenua but they go down to the wa­ter­front where all the visi­tors go and they can’t see any ev­i­dence of it.

They run out of things to do at night be­cause even the main shop­ping precincts close in the early evening. They hear about the great res­tau­rants but when they visit it seems some of the staff couldn’t care less. And they get stuck in traf­fic.

Visi­tors are im­por­tant to Auck­land, and Auck­land’s visi­tors are im­por­tant to New Zealand. One in five peo­ple in this coun­try is now em­ployed in tourism and re­lated in­dus­tries like hos­pi­tal­ity and Auck­land is, by far, the coun­try’s lead­ing vis­i­tor des­ti­na­tion.

By 2025, last year’s 2.6 mil­lion in­ter­na­tional visi­tors are pro­jected to be­come 4.1m. The $7.5 bil­lion they spent is ex­pected to rise to $13.9b.

The old plan used to be mar­ket the city. The new plan is to man­age the growth. Des­ti­na­tion man­age­ment is the big new idea.

En­ter Sned­den, lawyer, for­mer Black Cap, rugby boss dur­ing the 2011World Cup and Duco Events CEO. “It’s not enough just talk­ing about the vis­i­tor con­tri­bu­tion to the econ­omy,” he told the Week­end Her­ald this week. “We don’t want Auck­lan­ders re­sent­ing visi­tors. This is a bit of a shift.”

Des­ti­na­tion AKL 2025 is the brain­child of Ateed, Auck­land Coun­cil’s tourism, events and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment arm. Ateed brought in Sned­den and set him up with that in­dus­try lead­ers’ group.

Its mem­bers in­clude the usual sus­pects — se­nior ex­ec­u­tives from var­i­ous tourism agen­cies and big tourism-fo­cused com­pa­nies like the air­port, Air New Zealand, the ho­tel and cruise sec­tors. But they’ve also got in­fra­struc­ture or­gan­i­sa­tions like Auck­land Trans­port and MBIE (the Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment). The ed­u­ca­tion sec­tor is there, be­cause there are big im­pli­ca­tions for ser­vice-sec­tor train­ing. Ma¯ori Tourism is there and so is en­vi­ron­men­tal cham­pion Sir Rob Fen­wick. The coun­cil is there, led by chief ex­ec­u­tive Stephen Town, be­cause

Au­then­tic strength is when visi­tors en­counter a place where the peo­ple there re­ally love it . . . Other places around New Zealand, they’re go­ing to copy this. Martin Sned­den

ul­ti­mately the city will stand or fall on all this.

That’s not al­ways ob­vi­ous. The tourism sec­tor is a low-wage sec­tor and as tourism strength­ens its im­por­tance to the Auck­land econ­omy, that could get even more en­trenched than it is now. The chal­lenge is to use the vis­i­tor econ­omy to drive up the liv­ing stan­dards and as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple who live here.

When Sned­den’s group was first pulled to­gether, they were asked to help Ateed cre­ate a new tourism plan. It’s not so long since Ateed got in trou­ble with Goff for a mar­ket­ing strat­egy he thought was a waste of money. They were wary of mak­ing that mis­take again.

But Sned­den’s group wanted this to be a plan for the whole of Auck­land and they’re stay­ing to­gether to help see it through.

Sned­den said Pa­nia Tyson-Nathan of NZ Ma¯ori Tourism was crit­i­cal to that. “She told us, ‘We need to keep talk­ing to each other and we need to talk to others if we need this thing to stick.’ So we’re go­ing to keep meet­ing. There’s so much to do.”

Still, you can’t fix Auck­land with an en­thu­si­as­tic com­mit­tee and good in­ten­tions. Sned­den con­cedes that, but sug­gests you can make progress with a good frame­work.

Des­ti­na­tion AKL 2025 has three ba­sic prin­ci­ples: ko­tahi­tanga, kaiti­ak­i­tanga and man­aak­i­tanga, or col­lab­o­ra­tion, guardian­ship and “a warm wel­come”. Also, it presents a fu­ture for the city in terms of six “vi­sions”: Auck­land could be unique, con­nected, cap­ti­vat­ing, skilled, sus­tain­able and in­sight­ful.

The plan was pre­sented to a coun­cil meet­ing this week by Steve Ar­mitage, Ateed’s gen­eral man­ager of des­ti­na­tions.

But James Brown from the In­de­pen­dent Ma¯ori Statu­tory Board was con­cerned about lim­ited iwi in­volve­ment. Ar­mitage said mana whenua had been con­sis­tently in­vited but had not al­ways taken up those in­vi­ta­tions. Both agreed they have work to do.

Sned­den told the Week­end Her­ald: “You don’t get ev­ery­one at once. It’s like an onion, where you keep wrap­ping it in more lay­ers.

“What we’re do­ing still has a mar­ket­ing com­po­nent, of course it does. We want vis­i­tor num­bers to grow.

“But ac­tu­ally it’s about look­ing af­ter the des­ti­na­tion. Sus­tain­abil­ity is crit­i­cal to this. We haven’t found other places any­where in the world who see it this way.”

Sned­den is a steady, soft-spo­ken per­son. But no one lis­ten­ing to him could miss the de­ter­mi­na­tion.

“Peo­ple talk about au­then­tic­ity,” he said. “Au­then­tic strength is when visi­tors en­counter a place where the peo­ple there re­ally love it. Other places around New Zealand, they’re go­ing to copy this.”

But is Auck­land, and the rest of the coun­try, ac­tu­ally go­ing to do it? The next step, which is not yet ex­plained in any de­tail, is to start.

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