If it aint broke… why change?

It’s Long Term Plan time across the local councils. They’ve all got some big spend items – Hastings with water($47m), Napier a Master Plan for Park Island ($15.8m) but its the huge rate hike at the HBRC and the possible loss of some funding for tourism that is the hot topic.

The HBRC says a major priority for the next 10 years is the environment and I don’t think anyone can argue about that. But, it shouldn’t be at the expense of tourism – which brings in $630m in spend.

As a current councilor at HDC, I know the influence we can individually and collectively have on council outcomes. We’ve seen it time and time again with the regional council and the 4–5 split (or rift) that has gone on for at least the past three terms.

Do the current HBRC councillors understand the background and history as to how we have ended up with the most effective approach to tourism for many years? Remember Vision 20/20, HB Inc and every other failed model?

Tourism has many benefits and touches us all. $630 million in direct spending by tourists and 8 percent of regional GDP, and employs over 6,200 people across the Bay.

The economic benefits are broad, from the corner dairy and a tourist walking in and buying an ice cream, to our wineries, retailers, restaurants and hotels. So, when councilors say that the sector must contribute, where does the spectrum of the tourism sector end?

I think they have also forgotten the soft tangibles of tourism. During Art Deco weekend I had a long lunch in Napier and we asked many tourists what they liked about Hawke’s Bay.

We talked to a wide range of people, one 21-year- old Aucklander who on a whim decided to come down and stroll down yesteryear through to a couple from California who were on a cruise ship tour. Another American family had heard about Hawke’s Bay while in Auckland and out of curiosity decided to come and take a look – they’re now keen to move here!

They all spoke passionately about the Bay, many saying it was the best place they had visited. But not only were they spending money but they were making us feel proud about where we live.

As locals we love being told how great a place we live in (perhaps that’s why there’s a marketing slogan called Great Things Grow Here) so we should all be happy to contribute $26 per household a year – I think that’s about the cost of five coffees.

I do agree with the councillors that in some way Tourism Hawke’s Bay and the industry must contribute and although I’m happy to support their cause, I also think they need to be a bit more transparent with the funds they receive.

HBRC has done a good job of questioning the value of contributing to tourism, which has in turn upped our understanding of the importance of tourism, but the last thing we want is to go back to the previously unsuccessful models.

HBRC is really the only way that all residents in the region can contribute via rates. We don’t want rate collection via Napier, Hastings, Wairoa or Central Hawke’s Bay councils. All this will do is dilute the Hawke’s Bay brand and see each town or city competing against each other.