Kaikoura coastal highway to become tourism attraction
Kaikoura residents had a range of topics on the table for Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett when she visited the town on Tuesday.
Tourism Minister Bennett spent the morning catching up on the progress being made to the northern highway.
She met tourism operators in the afternoon and told them more funding was going in to the project to make the route a tourism attraction in its own right.
Bennett had asked the ministry of transport to consider the economic benefit of tourism when prioritising projects, which was now happening for the first time.
Kaikoura's coastal route was up there with other great drives like Australia's Sunshine Coast or Great Ocean Road, and the extra funding would allow road widening, parking bays, cycle/walkways and toilets.
"There will be a real focus on safety. Tourists will be able to stop for day activities, stay in the area for longer. It will make the journey part of the experience."
Government would also be working to get tourists dispersed into the regions, particularly in the shoulder season, which was key to economic growth, she said.
Results from a marketing plan in Northland were being collated, she said, and if successful, would be something the Government would want to roll out for Kaikoura once the road was open.
While in town Bennett popped in to the Kaikoura mothers and babies Plunket group and chatted to parents about their difficulties post-earthquake.
She also had lunch with 16 women where she heard concerns about cell phone coverage on the Inland Rd, freedom camping, and the cost of infrastructure to support tourism on a small ratepayer base.
Tourism operators also discussed the proposed changes to immigration laws, telling her the message from the South Island was not to tighten up the regulations as they relied on overseas workers to fill jobs during the tourist season.
Kaikoura recovery manager Danny Smith said the Government needed to realise the district still had a long way to go.
"We are still dealing with the isolation, and the town has never had a 20 per cent increase in population as we are seeing with the workers' village."