Support the Guardian

Available for everyone, funded by readers

Canterbury wants to be a tourist destination, but has no funds to achieve it

Canterbury wants to be a tourist destination, but has no funds to achieve it
The Ōpuke Thermal Pools and Spa are an example of post earthquake infrastructure the Destination Management Plan suggests can win back the region’s market share of visitor spending. SUPPLIED

Canterbury plans to be tourism destination rather than a "gateway to elsewhere” - but has no funds to achieve it.

The region’s newly created destination management plan has been endorsed by the district councils – Ashburton, Selwyn, Waimakariri, and Christchurch City.

But while the councils endorsed the plan earlier this month, they also noted there was no actual budget to execute it.

And the wording of the plan drew the ire of one Ashburton councillor, who felt it was "negative" to say the district had disparate and constrained visitor offerings.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment provided funding for the development of destination management plans across New Zealand, with ChristchurchNZ leading its development on behalf of the Canterbury Regional Tourism Organisation region.

With the four councils’ endorsement, ChristchurchNZ was set to report the plan to the ministry by the end of November.

The plan aims to win back the region’s market share of visitor spending, utilising infrastructure that has been built post the Canterbury earthquakes – such as the Ōpuke Thermal Pools in Methven.

It emphasised that growth needs to be sustainable and focused on regenerative tourism development for the future.

In a report presented to Ashburton councillors last week, economic development manager Simon Worthington said for the plan to be successful, it needed to promote Canterbury “as a destination to visit - not just a gateway to elsewhere”.

Councillor Carolyn Cameron supported the plan, saying working as a region was "absolutely essential”.

“Tourists don’t know where the Ashburton District begins and ends, they view the whole region.”

Worthington outlined the challenge of the plan being a strategic framework with no future designated funding, and no statutory or regulatory compliance components for its execution.

Councillor Tony Todd said he wasn't impressed with “negative wording” about Ashburton in the plan.

The paragraph that drew his ire read: “Ashburton district has disparate offerings of a very busy Methven and Mt Hutt during the ski season and limited visitor experiences elsewhere within the region”.

It also said data showed tourism business numbers and staffing have declined in the region over the past decade.

“Many of the current accommodation and dining offerings have lifestyle operators, which can mean there is constrained visitor offerings when they are closed or on extended holidays," the report states.

Ashburton District Council chief executive Hamish Riach said aid the council had made no provision for the plan in the long term plan's draft budget at this stage.

Councillors will can consider funding options through the budget process, Riach said.

By Jonathan Leask