Tasman may cut tourism funding

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 14:00 26/05/2012

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Tasman councillors have signalled they will cut tourism funding – a move slated as disastrous for the industry.

The Tasman District Council will review its financial support to the region's tourism industry with a view to making a staged exit from its annual $422,236 commitment to Nelson Tasman Tourism (NTT).

The regional tourism company, owned by Tasman council and the Nelson City Council, promotes the area and subsidises information centres.

The Tasman council's share is funded through a $23.55 annual rate on property owners.

During its long term plan meeting this week, councillors decided to continue tourism funding this year, but will review it in the lead-up to next year's annual plan.

Tasman deputy mayor Tim King told the council meeting the review was not about "rearranging the deck chairs, but reviewing the financing of tourism by ratepayers".

Councillor Judene Edgar said the review would signal the council's exit from funding tourism sooner rather than later.

Councillor Trevor Norris said ratepayers already spent heavily on tourism-focused infrastructure, such as Tasman's Great Taste Cycle Trail, and could ill-afford a further $400,000 a year.

After the meeting, Mayor Richard Kempthorne said most ratepayers who submitted on the issue opposed funding the region's tourism industry.

The review would explore if funding information centres and destination marketing benefited the general ratepayer and would feed into the 2012/13 annual plan, he said.

Abel Tasman Aqua Taxi sales manager Brendan Alborn said the council's proposed funding withdrawal would be an unmitigated disaster for NTT. "My overwhelming impression is that NTT is a high quality organisation which does the best with its budget. If the council cuts its funding share we can forget about the region competing with other major national destination markets."

NTT chief executive Lynda Keene said she was surprised at the move.

The Tasman council's funding was critical in promoting and supporting the region's tourism sector. Any withdrawal of its funding would have a significant impact on NTT, which punched above its weight in the national tourism sector as a destination marketer. Ms Keene said she was eager to highlight to councillors the wider economic benefits tourism brought the region.

Abel Tasman Wilsons chief executive Darryl Wilson said the region could not afford to rest on its laurels in the highly competitive industry of tourism marketing. Comparing the main street of Motueka in mid-winter to its highly dynamic state in January graphically illustrated the benefits of tourism.

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Each council contributes about $400,000 to NTT. In Tasman's case, $321,000 goes to support the Murchison, Golden Bay and Motueka information centres, with a further $100,000 for destination marketing.

NTT received a further $400,000 from the private tourism sector.

Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio said yesterday that while the city had not been told officially of Tasman's position, any withdrawal of funding by its joint shareholder in the marketing company would impact on how the city funded it.

"We would have to consider whether we keep the funding the same, decrease or increase it."

He said NTT had "got some wins on the board in attracting people to the region and promoting the brand.

"We would not like to take a backward step now."

Nelson city has budgeted annual funding of $430,500 for NTT until 2022 in its current draft long term plan.

The company's six-monthly report to December 2011 revealed the Rugby World Cup last year had created many opportunities that NTT had worked hard to exploit and stay within budget.

It reported that the Information Centre benefited little from the RWC and ended the six months 11.6 per cent down on revenue. The first three months of this year had also been disappointing, but the company remained profitable by making two staff redundant.

- The Nelson Mail

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