Tourism Bay of Plenty is seeking an increase in funding of $621,000 in order to manage the region's exponential tourism growth, so that it doesn't impact negatively on the environment and local communities.
The funding is being sought under Tauranga City Council's Long Term Plan, which opened for consultation today, and would equate to 0.5 per cent of the council's proposed overall rates increase.
Tourism Bay of Plenty is appealing for people to make submissions in favour of the funding, so it can follow a ‘Destination Management' path, an emerging trend worldwide to approach tourism from a more sustainable viewpoint.
Destination management is the strategic and sustainable management of visitor-related development, coordinated with residents' interests, to preserve a region's unique identity. It brings stakeholders together and provides them with the tools to work collaboratively to meet the demands of a growing number of tourists.
“It would be the greatest shame if this beautiful region became burdened by tourism to the point our locals didn't continue to love where they live, and we couldn't all enjoy the benefits of the economic impact this growing sector brings,” says Tourism Bay of Plenty CEO Kristin Dunne.
“It would be reckless to allow this growth without a considered management plan. We must show strong leadership, make insight-led decisions and have a clear development plan.”
Tourists spent a record $1 billion in the Coastal Bay of Plenty last year – a milestone that was originally not forecast for another 12 years. This figure is expected to grow to $1.45 billion by 2028, making it one of the largest economic contributors to the region.
Max Mason, Chair of the Tauranga City Council's Economic Development and Investment Committee, says while booming visitor numbers are good for business, there are growing negative impacts on local residents.
“Gridlock in summer months at the Mount, freedom camping issues and difficulties in finding visitor accommodation are all indicators of serious future problems. Our tourism and city leaders can't stick our heads in the sand – we need to act now,” says Mr Mason.
“By going to public consultation with a proposal to become Destination Managers, Tourism Bay of Plenty is proactively seeking to find future solutions. I urge the community to make submissions so that we can make the best decisions on tourism going forward.”
Regional Tourism New Zealand says local tourism organisations are on a “knife edge” for future funding.
Executive officer Charlie Ives says pulling back on tourism funding is a mistake, from which regions can take years to recover.
“What we need is a really solid conversation at a national level about a consistent approach to funding tourism in New Zealand. It shouldn't be left up to each local council to come up with options based on the current limited funding levers available to them,” he says.
“The regional tourism organisations are very conscious of ensuring the growth in tourism continues to deliver benefits to the community and increasingly they're also taking on a role of working with other community groups and monitoring community attitudes.”
Regions should all have a long-term strategy for managing and developing their tourism industry to ensure local communities get maximum benefit from what is a booming industry, he says.
Tourism Bay of Plenty currently receives funding that equates to 0.15 per cent of visitor spend, which is well below the national benchmark of 0.21 per cent for similar-sized regional tourism organisations.
The additional funding would be met through the Economic Development targeted rate, with the impact on most businesses being less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week – between 7 cents and 58 cents a day for all businesses under $2m in value and no more than $1.15 a day for businesses valued $4m or over.
“It's a small price to pay to help boost our economy and create jobs, which benefits everyone in the long run. It is our collective responsibility to be guardians of our place by protecting and enhancing the environment, through sustainable tourism growth,” says Ms Dunne.
Submissions are open until April 16 and can be made at www.goodquestion.nz.
For more information on Tourism Bay of Plenty's Visitor Economic Strategy, email firstname.lastname@example.org