The Timaru Herald

Minister warned of Mackenzie’s tourism funding challenges

- Yashas Srinivasa

The challenge of funding critical tourism infrastruc­ture in the Mackenzie District has been highlighte­d during the minister of tourism and hospitalit­y’s visit to Timaru.

Matt Doocey spoke to more than 20 people at an event organised by the South Canterbury Chamber of Commerce at Ara Institute of Technology in Timaru on Thursday.

Those in attendance included Rangitata MP James Meager, Timaru District mayor Nigel Bowen, Mackenzie District mayor Anne Munro, and Venture Timaru operations and destinatio­n manager Di Hay.

Doocey said his three key priorities for the industry were growing tourism, ensuring rural and regional New Zealand maximised economic opportunit­y from tourism and hospitalit­y, and supporting people who worked in the sector.

He also spoke about the $5 million Regional Events Promotion Fund, which was announced last month, and highlighte­d the importance of cruise ships, recognisin­g the boost they brought to the Timaru economy and the need and desire to grow the cruise industry.

During a Q&A session, Munro raised the issue of the impact that tourism was having on the infrastruc­ture of a district with such a small ratepayer base. She used the example of the public toilets at the Lake Pukaki car park, which are used mainly by hundreds of visitors and tourists and now had to be cleaned more than once a day to maintain high standards.

Munro said that had cost the council an extra $144,000, which was close to a 1% increase for ratepayers. “It is terribly unfair to expect the local ratepayers to pay an extra 1% for internatio­nal tourists to come through.”

Another example was the Tekapo wastewater treatment plant having to service 15 times more than was required by its permanent-residents base and which needed to be upgraded for an estimated $45m.

Munro said $8m had been slated for a “temporary solution” in year three of the district council’s Long-term Plan. This would extend the plant’s life by 15 years, she said, but the council wanted a longterm solution.

She also raised the issue of tourism data collection that had “seemingly stopped”, meaning the council was unable to keep up with visitor numbers and expenditur­e.

Accommodat­ion was another issue raised by the mayor as well as the lack of infrastruc­ture to attract staff to the district.

Hay said she endorsed what Munro said about the tourism data and emphasised its importance.

She also wanted more support for councils putting together destinatio­n management plans and applying to the Regional Events Promotion Fund.

A problem with the events promotion fund was that restrictio­ns meant there would be “very few things” the Timaru District could qualify for, she said.

The minister said he would take the issue back to Wellington to see if there was a way to offset the workload.

Hospitalit­y New Zealand’s South Canterbury branch president, Lachlan Broadfoot, raised concerns about road safety in the district and said it was a very “extended and painful” process to engage with the NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi on road safety measures and speed limits.

Chamber of Commerce chief executive Wendy Smith said Thursday’s event was a “wonderful opportunit­y” to host Doocey and bring him up to speed on the issues that the Mackenzie District faced in funding tourism infrastruc­ture and the importance of the cruise industry to regions such as Timaru.

“Minister Doocey engaged on a number of key issues, including funding infrastruc­ture in the Mackenzie, and there was a definite will to engage and seek solutions,” Smith said.

“We will be following up with the minister and his office as we seek prioritise­d funding for this critical infrastruc­ture.”

Smith said it was pleasing to hear the minister “recognise and endorse” the importance of the cruise industry to Timaru’s economy.

“The other key issue raised was in relation to road safety and the tragic events that occurred over the last week,” she said, referring to a horror weekend on South Canterbury roads over Easter, when four people were killed in one of two serious crashes.

The crashes had shown a “need for prompt simple solutions to save lives and enhance New Zealand and South Canterbury’s reputation as a safe and wonderful place to visit”, she said.

“A request to revisit NZTA’s decision-making was made – and, when locals align in their thinking with local councils and emergency services, to action these requests.”

“Minister Doocey engaged on a number of key issues, including funding infrastruc­ture in the Mackenzie, and there was a definite will to engage and seek solutions.”

Wendy Smith

Chamber of Commerce chief executive

 ?? AIMAN AMERUL MUNER/ THE TIMARU HERALD ?? Tourism Minister Matt Doocey at the Ara Timaru campus on Thursday morning.
AIMAN AMERUL MUNER/ THE TIMARU HERALD Tourism Minister Matt Doocey at the Ara Timaru campus on Thursday morning.

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