Tourism, business in focus as Timaru ward election nears
Supporting business owners and leveraging off the district's tourism opportunities have been identified as likely promoters of district growth as candidates vie for votes in a Timaru by-election .
Five candidates are standing in the Timaru District Council Timaru ward by-election, which will be held by postal ballot on September 5.
Voting papers should start arriving in letterboxes today.
Candidates and some voters say there is a need for the council to help the district the underlying drivers of growth to deliver on their potential.
All candidates have said the council has a role in attracting and retaining the people needed to drive growth and to pay the rates that will sustain it.
Candidate Murray Cleverley said part of the equation was supporting small enterprises, which amount to 92 per cent of the district's businesses.
That should not be to detriment of ratepayers: communication about what was already available, and promotion of the district and its opportunities was important.
Tourism, as a boost to business, needed active promotion. Attracting 2 or 3 per cent of the tourists travelling between Christchurch and Queenstown would bring a potentially lucrative slice of a market of 2 million people.
Candidate Nigel Bowen, co-owner of Speight's Ale House, said extensive debate on his Facebook election page showed a tourism discussion "still had some relevance".
"My thoughts on tourism are that we need to get some fundamentals right, we need to be marketing the region as the Timaru district and not Aoraki as our current website is [labelled]."
Some who commented on the page said they supported more recreational and cultural facilities to draw visitors in, such as skate parks, a better theatre, and a waterfront cafe.
"It is interesting to see what people see as important to them, a lot of the comments around play areas are generally parents with younger children so for a tourism discussion it still has some relevance as the Margaret Mahy playground as an example pulls a lot of domestic tourists into the Christchurch CBD."
Timaru was "not a bad place to live" but the council needed to be "screaming from the rooftop" to try and attract people, Bowen said.
Candidate and former councillor Anthony Brien said he thought South Canterbury already had an inclusive business community, with Aoraki Development working well with the Chamber of Commerce to both attract businesses and then help them settle in.
"The council does provide some networking."
Candidate Mark Rogers said he wanted to boost the region's economy by promoting Timaru Airport more, and making it economically independent.
"Timaru Airport is critical to our economic prosperity. However, we should be working to eliminate subsidies. My experience as a director of an airport that runs commercially and returns dividends to its shareholders, including a council, would add significant knowledge and credibility in furthering this aim."
The district needed to use its competitive advantages so that the required infrastructure could be paid for without burdening ratepayers.
Rogers also said he supported a "holistic" approach to tourism, looking at Timaru both as the gateway to the Mackenzie Country and a tourist destination in its own right. Promoting Timaru's unique attractions, such as Maori rock art, was important.
Candidate Owen Jackson said when it came to tourism there currently was "a lot of talk and little action".
"The council has spent $100,000 on a website that looks great but how effective is it? We have some incredibly talented people in this region that we need to tap into and utilise more effectively to find a formula that really works."
Bowen said there were some good networks in place for new business owners, but it could be a "communication thing" when people first arrived in the town. Potentially Aoraki Development could do more to help, he said.
- The Timaru Herald