Tourism crisis raises concern
Concerns are being raised about the lack of movement from the Kaikoura District Council on addressing the decline in tourist numbers and improving prospects for economic development in the district.
While some members of the council tourism and economic development committee feel it should be kick-starting the economy and revising the focus of tourism, the committee has failed to meet in almost half a year.
The group's last public meeting was in June, with monthly meetings having been cancelled since then. Today marks the fifth cancelled meeting.
Committee chairman Geoff Harmon said the two main reasons for the committee not meeting were the absence of a tourism officer and the fact that tourism services were being reviewed.
The council's tourism officer resigned in June. Dominic Moran, of Moran Tourism Group, has since conducted a review of Kaikoura's tourism services, Kaikoura Information Tourism Incorporated (KITI) and the tourism and development committee, with a view to a possible merger. His report has been received by the council and a working party made up of KITI and council representatives is working though his recommendations.
Committee members have expressed disappointment at not having had the opportunity to raise issues, form strategies and keep updated on general business. However, Mr Harmon said day-to-day enquiries were being dealt with by council staff.
As for the committee's responsibility to economic development, Mr Harmon said he believed this did not fit with tourism. If a new committee were to be set up for tourism and events, Mr Harmon would like to see another committee established to explore development opportunities.
He was mindful of the problems facing the local economy and the decline in tourist numbers but felt the problem was global.
"I believe when hotel accommodation in Christchurch gets back to reasonable levels and international flights return to normal, Kaikoura will see a vast improvement in tourism," he said.
Committee member Stephan Rattray said Kaikoura was in a crisis which meant now was not the time for the committee to be sitting on its hands.
"In the eight years I have been here I haven't seen so many businesses closed, and some doing it really hard," he said. "Simply waiting for hotels to be built in Christchurch is not acceptable. There is a growing domestic visitor market in Christchurch that Kaikoura is missing out on at the moment."
Councillor Darlene Morgan, a member of the tourism and development committee, has aired her concerns at previous meetings over the lack of discussion on stimulating the economy.
Committee member Ralph Hogan has also expressed disappointment that the group has not met for so long. He said there were any number of issues which could have been addressed and the idea of the committee remaining dormant while the Moran Tourism Group review and recommendations were worked through was not the proactive approach he signed up for when he joined the committee.
The next tourism and development committee meeting is scheduled for December 12.