Beware tourism grant cuts, councillors told

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 12:00 03/05/2014

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Cutting Nelson-Tasman Tourism's $400,000 annual grant from the district council's rates would see the end of the regional tourism organisation (RTO).

The stern warning was delivered to Tasman councillors by chairman Phil Taylor and chief executive Lynda Keene in the organisation's submission to the council's draft annual plan yesterday. The RTO is funded by Nelson City and Tasman District councils. Taylor said the RTO's demise would cost the council and ratepayers dearly and see the loss of jobs, revenue and growth.

But councillor Michael Higgins said Tasman had to reduce its spending and could save $5 million in a decade by cutting tourism funding.

"We need more than generalities - there is an impact on whatever we do," he said.

Taylor said the council's stated role was to provide good facilities and building, "but it's marketing not buildings that brings people to the region".

He said the notion the industry would rally if the council withdrew its funding was unlikely because there would be no umbrella RTO.

"The only way for us to operate effectively is for both councils to provide funding," he said.

Keene said NNTT had commissioned a report looking at different funding and structure models, which it hoped to present to its shareholding councils in the next fortnight.

Chris Allison and John-Paul Pochin, of Bicycle Nelson Bays, were among a number who asked Tasman not to defer the $600,000 funding for the final stage of the Great Taste Cycle Trail, from Wakefield to Tapawera.

Councillor Brian Ensor said the council had already spent $1.74 million on the project and was "taking a breather" to wait for the criteria of future contestable Government funding. Allison said the risk was Government would see the council's hesitation as a lack of commitment and it would contrast this with competing councils.

"It might also be seen as the council not understanding the value of the trail," he said.

Tim Leyland, of the Tapawera and Districts Community Council, said the council's proposal to defer the final stage of the cycleway had left residents feeling disillusioned.

"There is a feeling that something good for Tapawera has been chopped again."

He asked the council to consider continuing with the section from Wakefield to Spooner's Range.

Cyclists using the tunnel could pay a toll which would go towards the trail's maintenance.

The partial completion would still bring revenue and opportunity to Tapawera and allay the community's feeling that the coastal communities had received the lion's share of the benefit from what was a district project.

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Malcolm Saunders, speaking as the president of Tasman Wheelers, urged the council to come up with its $640,000 share of the proposed Saxton Field velodrome to support local track cycling, cycle safety training and the region's cycling image.

But when addressing councillors minutes later putting the case for Greypower, Saunders asked the project be deferred indefinitely, questioned the numbers taking part in sport cycling and asked if the expenditure was essential.

Other submitters asked the council not to spend $1.2 million building shops on the former Mapua aquarium site, address Richmond's drainage issues to solve storm flooding, support a $120,000 driving range facility for Greenacres Golf Course and introduce rules prohibiting genetically modified plant releases.

- The Nelson Mail

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