U-turn on i-SITE; too costly to run

The Palmerston i-SITE, which will close at the end of next week. Photo: Bill Campbell
The Palmerston i-SITE, which will close at the end of next week. Photo: Bill Campbell
Tourism Waitaki has made a U-turn on the future of the Palmerston i-SITE, announcing it will close, just days after insisting no decision had been made on its future.

It will close at 4pm on Friday, August 17.

Tourism Waitaki chief executive Margaret Munro on Saturday said she had offered redeployment for the staff,  all  part-time, to the Oamaru i-SITE.

Information brochures from the Palmerston i-SITE would be relocated to the Waihemo Service Centre in Palmerston.

An earlier  announcement the i-SITE would close on August 1 was made by email to staff by Mrs Munro.

That was later retracted when Mrs Munro said last Monday it would remain open "in the foreseeable future" and it would be "business as usual".

Mrs Munro said on Saturday the board of Tourism Waitaki had reviewed the Palmerston i-SITE after three years of significant reductions in visitor numbers.

The review concluded the continued operation of the i-SITE was too costly, given the return on bookings or referrals was often less than 1%  of the monthly cost of keeping the facility open.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said reopening the i-SITE could be considered in  future as the Unesco Geopark concept was developed throughout the Waitaki district.The development of the geopark could be about three years away.

Waihemo Community Board chairwoman Kathy Dennison said it was disappointing the board had not been consulted before the closure announcement.

Former Waitaki mayor Alex Familton described the lack of consultation as "unbelievable".

But Waihemo ward Cr Jan Wheeler said given the i-SITE was running at a huge loss, shifting its brochures to the Waihemo Service Centre would add to the functions of the service centre and make good economic sense.

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