Alternative to i-Site for consideration by council

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher outside Oamaru’s former i-Site building at the intersection of lower...
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher outside Oamaru’s former i-Site building at the intersection of lower Thames and Itchen Sts, where a new information centre could open under a different operating model. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD
Oamaru may yet welcome visitors with an information centre, but whether that happens will likely fall to the Waitaki District Council.

In May, council-controlled Tourism Waitaki announced the Oamaru i-Site would close permanently, as would its satellite Omarama site, due to a sharp drop in income in the absence of tourists amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has since applied for $400,000 funding from the Government’s Regional Tourism Organisation fund and the Strategic Tourism Assets fund to assist with costs associated with the running of the organisation’s flagship Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.

However, that funding was targeted and could not be used for an information centre.

But, Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said council was able to step in to the funding gap, in the form of its annual payment to Tourism Waitaki for contracted services.

"We are looking at a solution. The geopark trust is very interested in having its pop-up shop in the information centre and the people that man that would be quite willing and able to help provide some of the service."

The use of volunteers and the appointment of a full-time co-ordinator were also being considered, he said.

Mr Kircher said opening a new information centre in ground floor of the same building as the former i-Site would "make sense", as it was a council-owned building, but that councillors would have to agree to a tenancy and rental agreement.

He said there was still demand for a physical information centre in Oamaru.

"One of the issues has been that i-Sites [the brand] are going out of fashion so to speak. Information centres, there is still a place for them. Visitors to an area look for locals to give them information, they are looking for a person. Many will look up online and find the info they want, but so many people still want that local opinion on what the best things are."

There were no plans to reopen an information centre at Omarama.

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