Tour operator hits out at i-SITE 'monopoly'

A Christchurch tour operator plans to continue taking a 12-seater vehicle up Baldwin St, despite i-SITE objections. Photo: Peter McIntosh
A Christchurch tour operator plans to continue taking a 12-seater vehicle up Baldwin St, despite i-SITE objections. Photo: Peter McIntosh
A Christchurch tour operator who takes tourists up Baldwin St in a 12-seat vehicle says his business is not supported by i-SITE in Dunedin, an organisation he says is ''an absolute monopoly''.

Robin McCarthy says there is nothing illegal about what he does, but the Dunedin City Council says it does not ''actively promote'' the Baldwin St trip because of concerns about pedestrian safety.

I-SITE Dunedin visitor centre manager Louise van de Vlierd said despite that, brochures were still available at the office, and tickets were sold to people who asked for them.

Mr McCarthy operates Christchurch Tours Group, which expanded into Dunedin, targeting cruise ships during the season.

In 2016 the company started a one-hour tour of central Dunedin to Baldwin St and the beaches. Tickets are sold from the i-SITE in the Octagon.

Mr McCarthy said because of changes in the market and competition, he decided to ''value-add' by driving tourists up and down Baldwin St.

He began that service in May.

''It was quite clear that what I was doing was not welcome with the i-SITE.''

He met Ms van de Vlierd recently and she told him there were concerns about him taking his vehicle up Baldwin St because people regularly walked on the street.

''My view is that if people are walking on the street they shouldn't be, they should be on the footpath,'' Mr McCarthy said.

Despite the problems, he had not given up on the Baldwin St tour.

He did get ''push-backs'' from two residents of Baldwin St for driving his vehicle up the street.

''Once I spoke to them, explained to them, then they seemed to be quite happy.

''One was probably not quite so happy but he realised there was nothing they could do about it.''

Mr McCarthy said other residents ''thought it was wonderful''.

He was also concerned about the response he got to a plan to run a service from Port Chalmers to Orokonui Ecosanctuary.

He had put together a brochure and written to the ecosanctuary to tell them his plans, but the ecosanctuary told him it already had operators.

He was concerned his brochures would not be displayed at i-SITE at Port Chalmers, and said the response he was getting in Dunedin was ''protectionism'' for local operators, something that did not happen in Canterbury.

''The big problem is the i-SITE has an absolute monopoly.

''At the end of the day I'm a signed-up member.

''They're picking and choosing winners.

I think it's a very poor show.''

Ms van de Vlierd said the brochures for Mr McCarthy's Baldwin St tour were displayed at the i-SITE Visitor Centre while the tour was running.

The business was not actively promoted because the council did not encourage tourist-related vehicles to use Baldwin St, due to concerns about pedestrian safety.

She said Mr McCarthy had not been told his brochures would not be displayed at the Port Chalmers i-SITE.


Cavalier and arrogant attitude toward a city residential area.

Your business model isn’t.