Bridges: greater tourism investment needed

National Party leader Simon Bridges wanders along Thames St in Oamaru with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean...
National Party leader Simon Bridges wanders along Thames St in Oamaru with Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean on Thursday. Photo: Daniel Birchfield
Greater tourism infrastructure investment is needed in the lower South Island, including the Waitaki district, National party leader Simon Bridges says.

The Leader of the Opposition visited North Otago  on Thursday, where he spoke at a business breakfast at Totara before spending time in Oamaru and then heading north to Timaru, Ashburton and Christchurch as part of his "Connecting with Communities" roadshow.

Mr Bridges said feedback he received at the breakfast gave him confidence the Waitaki district was in good shape overall.

"What I’d say is the mood seems pretty buoyant actually. People are very positive about the outlook for Oamaru and the surrounding district. There’s a sense that if you go back a few years things didn’t necessarily look as bright. But, irrigation, the rural sector and tourism is going very well."

The importance of irrigation and water, cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis, economic development and the Labour-led Government’s proposed tourism levy were all topics of discussion. Mr Bridges said Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, a long-time supporter of greater investment in tourism infrastructure, spoke to him personally about Waitaki’s infrastructure requirements.

He agreed with Mr Kircher that more investment was needed in Waitaki, even if it was as "mundane as a toilet block here in Oamaru".However, Mr Bridges did not agree with Labour’s plan to tax tourists at the border.

"My clear view is there’s no doubt more investment is needed, particularly [in] the bottom half of the South Island where tourism numbers have swelled, but I don’t like this particular form of tax they’ve done at the border. I just think it’s going to have its complexities ... it’s going to go to the Beehive so we can’t have faith it’s going to get out where it needs to."

daniel.birchfield@odt.co.nz 

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