Trust works promoting region

The Clutha Development Trust (CDT) was formed more than 18 months ago with the mandate to enhance and support the district's tourism and primary industries, business and community development and job generation. Southern Rural Life talked to its chairman Rob Hewett, a farmer from Manuka Gorge, and its chief executive, Linda Moore, about the trust's achievements to date.

''What's important to the district is important to us,'' Clutha Development Trust chairman Rob Hewett says.

Following its settling-in period, the trust members have been busy.

They have developed a tourism strategy for the district, something that had not been done before.

The strategy identified the need to tell the rest of the world about South Otago, how much it had to offer tourists, and that it was more than just a spot on the road between Dunedin and Southland.

''We needed to have our own identity,'' chief executive Linda Moore said.

She said they had already hosted inbound tourism operators and others from the tourism industry on familiarisation trips, promoted the area through Trenz, the biggest tourism showcase in New Zealand, and developed packages of accommodation and activities, with subsequent positive feedback.

''We wanted to develop a strategy to encourage people to stay in the Catlins, visit the district and not just pass through,'' Ms Moore said.

''They did not even know we had accommodation here.''

Mr Hewett had raised the issue of charging visitors to use the currently free facilities in the area to cover maintenance costs of the car parks and other amenities.

He said international tourists were used to paying for access to similar attractions overseas and would be happy to do so in New Zealand.

The trust was also promoting the district within its schools to give its pupils a better knowledge of their home.

''What is going to happen in the Clutha district will have a significant impact on the next generation,'' he said.

The trust has also turned its attention to the district's primary industries and has assembled an agribusiness database as it recognises the importance of agriculture to the region.

The trust intended to look at wetlands, catchments, biodiversity, and water quality and nutrient management throughout the district and it would work with various farming groups to better implement that management and the necessary mitigation and education.

''We will also be looking at issues around winter feed practices and what the Otago Regional Council's 6A plan means for that.''

The trust was also involved with Farm IQ at Telford, DairyNZ and Beef and Lamb New Zealand programmes.

They have also targeted forestry and, in particular, the possibility of making biofuel out of forest waste.

Ms Moore said the trust provided support for local business development.

One of the key problems they wanted to address was the need to attract more people to live in the area.

While those who were unemployed in the district chose not to work, many of those who did work in the district also lived in other communities.

They wanted to see more people encouraged to move to the Clutha region and spend their money in the district through incentives or better housing stock.

They have identified the need to encourage the region's youth to return home after leaving to get an education.

The area has several issues that needed to be highlighted, including inadequate rural broadband services and reduced central government funding for local roads to be introduced during the next few years.

As a consequence either ratepayers would have an increased burden to fund road maintenance, or the roading stock would become inferior, which was not good for the various primary industries who transport product to clients along those arteries.

Then there is the ageing electricity line network, with increasing maintenance and upgrading ''a looming problem''.

''We can see farmers and small rural communities really suffering [in the future] because of those three things,'' he said.

- yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz