Nature tourism theme of many submissions on plan

Rates, roading and requests for funding were issues the Clutha District Council heard last week during a full day of verbal submissions on its long term plan.

Strengthening the district's commitment to tourism was a theme for many submitters. Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan's message to submitters had been that ''future proofing'' the district was a priority, but Yellow eyed Penguin Trust field manager Dave McFarlane said there was a lack of recognition of the value of biodiversity in the council's plan and that conservation groups' economic contribution to communities ought to be a factor in the plan.

''With the mayor's message about future proofing the district, certainly, from the penguin trust's point of view, an investment in biodiversity conservation is an important part of doing that,'' he said.

The trust became invested in the district when it purchased the reserve at Long Point/Irahuka in 2009.

Mr McFarlane said yellow eyed penguin tourism on Otago Peninsula had gone from nothing in 1987 to a multimillion dollar business.

''There's significant unrealised potential, particularly in the Catlins district ... for nature based tourism to go further.

''Penguins and other wildlife are big business.''

Sealing Nugget Point Rd was brought up as an investment in tourism by three Catlins based group submissions. Catlins Residents and Ratepayers, Owaka Going Forward, and Catlins Coast each argued for the sealing of the road.

Aileen Clarke, of Owaka Going Forward, said sealing Nugget Point Rd was ''something that people see as needed to be done'' and drivers' safety was a concern.

''It's a very iconic tourist stop off for people. They come in looking for it all the time.''

She echoed earlier statements by two members of the Catlins Residents and Ratepayers group who said council needed to invest in the Hinahina bridge as it was used tourists and emergency services, as well as residents.

The council received 358 submissions on its 2015 25 plan.

Councillors will debate on the submissions tomorrow.

And the council is expected to formally approve the plan on June 18.

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