Tourist downturn denied by i-Site

Claims Dunedin's i-Site visitor centre has been channelling fewer tourists to Cadbury World and other tourism operators have been strongly denied by the centre.

Cadbury World manager Kylie Ruwhiu-Karawana, on day three of the long-term plan hearing yesterday, told the Dunedin City Council some smaller tourism operators could be forced out of business if a downturn in business from i-Site was not addressed.

Mrs Ruwhiu-Karawana said there appeared to have been a ''double-digit downturn'' in tourists being channelled through to operators from the Dunedin i-Site in the past year.

It had been noted by other operators she had spoken to, and needed to be addressed if smaller operators were to survive, she believed.

''If we don't stop that downturn, businesses will go under,'' she said.

That was despite operators such as Cadbury World paying a 10% commission on any ticket sales generated by the i-Site, she said.

Cadbury World set aside blocks of tour times for tourists coming from the i-Site, but the tours were no longer being filled.

I-Site manager Louise van de Vlierd said ''Kylie is not in a position to be making statements on behalf of other operators''.

Ms van de Vlierd said she did not have detailed figures at hand last night, but as well as having a dedicated Cadbury's counter on cruise ship days, the centre had begun selling Cadbury's tours as part of packages.

She said because of that, Cadbury World would not know how many people were coming from i-Site.

What figures she had been able to access late yesterday showed Cadbury World had just 10 fewer visitors from 65 cruise ship days this season, compared with last year, on the same number of days.

At the meeting, Mayor Dave Cull said the change was ''perplexing and worrying'', and clarification would be sought, but Cr Richard Thomson suggested it could reflect a downturn in tourists using the i-Site.

The concern was raised as another 31 submitters had their say on the council's long-term plan yesterday.

Economic concerns were again to the fore, as several submitters called for more attention on economic development.

Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust field manager Dave McFarlane also put an economic twist on the need for a new council biodiversity officer.

Mr McFarlane said the idea had been raised regularly over the last decade, and was yet to occur, but would aid biodiversity planning and policy issues.

That, in turn, could help protect the city's nature-based tourism industry, he said.

It was a suggestion supported by Save the Otago Peninsula spokeswoman Lala Frazer, who also wanted more council compliance officers to monitor resource consent conditions.

Otherwise, the city's landscape features could be threatened as consent conditions were ''flouted'', she said.

Philip Gilchrist also outlined a plan to redevelop the Wolfenden and Russell building he owned into a two-level, 735sq m South Dunedin library and community complex. That could cost about $4.1 million, including building and land purchase and redevelopment costs, he said.

Alternatively, the council could consider leasing the redeveloped building for about $390,000 a year, he said.

South Dunedin Business Association member Nick Orbell also wanted more investment in the area, and argued the community complex should be brought forward a year.

Green Island Business Association president John Moyle wanted council investment in Main South Rd, to support recent developments in the area.

Yesterday's submissions also reopened old wounds, as stadium critic Bev Butler renewed calls for a ''full forensic audit'' of spending by the Carisbrook Stadium Trust. Another council critic, Lyndon Weggery, held up his rates bill while criticising the state of council finances, the stadium review and questionable economic returns from the venue.

That drew a testy retort from Mayor Dave Cull, who interrupted to urge him to use his five minutes wisely and not ''tell us things we know are not true''.

Murray Grimwood also painted a bleak picture, while urging the council to build community resilience, as economic collapse and associated global ''chaos'' loomed.

Supporters of road-widening work on Portobello Rd were also back yesterday, as Korena Paterson, flanked by her two daughters, called for the work to be accelerated to improve the ''dangerous'' road.

Otago Peninsula Community Board chairwoman Christine Garey said it would save money and deliver an improved facility sooner, while Sean Hogan, of Broad Bay School, said it would reduce the severity of crashes.

Sandra Schwass said that was highlighted by the experience of her 17-year-old daughter, who narrowly avoided a head-on car crash because she was able to pull over into a slow vehicle bay.

Dunedin Amenities Society member Paul Pope called for improved tracks, while Mayfair Theatre Charitable Trust chairman Geoff Patton urged the council to put as much funding as possible towards its grants scheme.

Sport Otago chief executive John Brimble said a ''facilities strategy'' was needed to provide a framework for future decisions, while Mountain Biking Otago outlined plans for new developments next year.

The hearing concludes today.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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