Tourism Waitaki given warning

Gary Kircher
Gary Kircher
Amid ongoing contract negotiations Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher has warned Tourism Waitaki it needs to build a "positive relationship" with the community; ensure its governance policies give "effective and efficient direction"; and raise its communication with its shareholder, the Waitaki District Council.

The council-controlled regional tourism organisation presented its half-year report and statement of intent to the council this week with general manager Margaret Munro and director Adair Craik fronting for the organisation.

Tourism Waitaki had made gains over the past year: after posting a deficit of $61,512 for the 2017-18 financial year, it now expected to land $213,110 in the positive.

However, in May last year Tourism Waitaki decided not to back Oamaru's Fire and Steam, the Queen's Birthday Weekend Victorian Precinct street party, and in August made a U-turn on the future of the Palmerston i-Site in announcing it would close just days after insisting no decision had been made on its future.

Both decisions caused public outcry.

Mr Kircher said the organisation needed to "look at the public as an opportunity".

It needed to meet regularly with the council's executive committee and review the role of the board of directors chairman annually, Mr Kircher said.

Tourism Waitaki chairman Mike McElhinney was not present at the meeting.

Mr Kircher also said there had been an agreement on a 0.5 full-time equivalent position as an "events co-ordinator" at Tourism Waitaki rather than the current role of events "adviser".

And the organisation ought to be "actually running events that brings tourism in".

"It is something that needs to be addressed," he said.

Tourism Waitaki's Whitestone City, which opened in 2017, continued to attract attention from councillors.

Cr Hugh Perkins said the council had been sold on the idea that despite a long lead-in time, tour buses would soon be lining up to fill the Harbour St heritage attraction.

Now that tour bus numbers were on the decline "we've missed the bus on that," he said.

Mrs Munro, who inherited Whitestone City and last year's deficit from outgoing general manager Jason Gaskill, said Whitestone City's struggles showed the "dangers of basing business on past trends".

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