Visitor centre a 'rabbit warren'

Geraldine's new information centre is being described as a "rabbit warren" only capable of hosting up to five visitors at a time.

The Geraldine Community Board will meet on Wednesday night to discuss concerns about the centre. It is operated by ABDT and has been moved to a new location and had its opening hours reduced.

Geraldine ward councillor and community board member Kerry Stevens, who helped write a report to the board, said the current situation was diabolical.

He wanted the service restored to its previous level, and the centre back in a more visible location.

"It's well off the beaten track, previously it was at the gateway to Geraldine."

Mr Stevens said he heard complaints from holiday park owners and other businesses about the reduced hours.

"It makes no sense, you lose the people-contact and Geraldine is a key tourist route. It's all very well saying people use the internet, but local knowledge counts for so much more if you want to get a feel for the place.

"It could be the difference between someone driving through or staying a few more hours or even a few more nights."

Mr Stevens described the current building as a "rabbit warren".

"They have to turn away larger groups. They're also closed between 1pm and 1.30pm. I struggle with that logic - that's peak traffic for tourism. Geraldine is a tourism gateway to Aoraki-Mt Cook and Queenstown and we deserve better."

Mr Stevens said he had no problems with the staff at the site, who all did a good job. However, they had been placed in a "difficult position".

The report to the board stated the new centre was very small and only had standing room for four or five visitors.

"The Geraldine Visitor Centre has been closed completely on several weekends over recent months which is unacceptable, particularly during the peak summer season.

"Tourism is important to the Geraldine economy because many Geraldine businesses are either completely reliant on income from visitors [motels] or are reliant for a substantial part of their income from visitors [cafes]."

The report said a number of residents had raised concerns with three options put forward for the board to consider. Firstly, do nothing, secondly, write to the ADBT or Timaru District Council requesting they conduct a review, or third, request that the levels of service are restored, with better opening hours and an improved facility in the longer term.

The Timaru Herald