Tourism body 'threatened'

Nelson Tasman Tourism (NTT) says its value could be threatened by its unclear future.

The Tasman District Council (TDC) has proposed cutting and eventually stopping its funding to the tourism body.

The organisation's other shareholder, the Nelson City Council, yesterday announced it would continue to fund the company at its current level.

NTT is a council-controlled trading organisation owned by the Tasman District and Nelson City councils who have provided equivalent funding to the organisation since it began.

The company is expected to produce its statement of intent in February next year outlining how it would operate over the next three years, but chairman Phil Taylor said it was a bit stuck at how it was meant to proceed when it was unclear about its future.

"Essentially we need to get to talk to both shareholders as soon as possible in the same room so that NTT can get a clearer picture of where its shareholders see the future of the company and the functions it performs," he said.

"It is important for our region that the work NTT has done over the last 19 years in developing this key sector of our economy continues to ensure that the tourism sector contributes positively to our regional economy," said Mr Taylor.

He said there could be issues around the company's intellectual property and assets as the company has "developed a huge amount of knowledge and information that is owned by the two shareholders".

The company had also built relationships internationally and around the country and region and had investments with the private sector to the tune of about $425,000 per year, which were now at risk.

"You don't just get that overnight," said Mr Taylor.

He would like the company to be given the opportunity to trade through to July 2015 so its value could be retained.

When the TDC was making its decision, NTT asked if it could hold off and continue funding the company until June 30, 2015, so "an orderly transition could be made to a new entity if that is what they shareholders wished" but during the meeting the recommendation was changed and "it effectively started that process on July, 1 2014."

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said NCC's decision to continue funding, with a $426,000 contribution to NTT in 2014-15, was a signal that tourism funding was an important function for local government.

"The position is that we still consider that tourism promotion is extremely important to the region and that the NTT is performing that function on our behalf and there hasn't been anything in terms of the company's performance that would cause us to reduce funding from our position as a shareholder," she said.

Ms Reese said she hoped to meet with NTT's chief executive and Mr Taylor as soon as possible and then with TDC Mayor Richard Kempthorne.

TDC spokesman Chris Choat said the council's funding decision was subject to its annual plan, which had to go through public consultation. TDC had made its decision after a review, driven by concerns about a lack of value for Tasman District ratepayers from NTT, was undertaken.

A report produced for the TDC questioned the value for money in supporting NTT when the tourism company said it would withdraw support for Golden Bay and Murchison visitor information centres as they were not financially viable. The Murchison centre loses $74,000 a year, the Golden Bay centre $64,000, Motueka $50,000 and Nelson $30,000, but Mr Taylor said 76 per cent of the business and 90 per cent of the inquiries made through the Nelson iSite were for Tasman businesses and attractions.

Mr Taylor said he disagreed with TDC's view of value for money because marketing the region as a tourist destination was an essential service NTT delivered and the region's economic reliance on tourism could be compromised by the funding cuts.

The Nelson Mail