Call for wiser tourism infrastructure spending
30 May 2017
Harrison Grierson Media release
Call for wiser tourism infrastructure spending, not just toilets & carparks
The extra Government funding for tourism infrastructure announced recently is not addressing wider issues including our vulnerability to natural hazards, says a leading expert.
Glen Hughes, of engineering and design consultancy, Harrison Grierson, says Paula Bennett’s $178m tourism infrastructure package is primarily focused on toilets and carparks, and the development of two new Great Walks.
‘The Minister appears to be responding to freedom camper issues and while this is both necessary and important it does not consider the serious issue of natural hazards, especially in more remote areas,’ says Mr Hughes, who is urging for careful investigation to increase the resilience of infrastructure assets including design redundancy, alternatives and contingency planning.
He says while increased visitor numbers for two new Great Walks would benefit the economy; this would also increase pressure on the environment and on already stretched fundamental infrastructure such as transport, solid waste and water. He is urging for wiser infrastructure spending to not only increase capacity for increased visitor numbers but to increase resilience to natural disaster.
Christchurch-based Mr Hughes, who is Harrison Grierson’s Southern Regional Manager, says our increasing vulnerability to natural hazards and the ensuing strain on the environment and existing infrastructure appear to be caused by climate change; but has also been highlighted by the increased level of seismic activity over the last six-seven years.
‘The experts tell us that climate change is causing increased frequency of extremely high intensity weather events - recently experienced in Auckland and Edgecumbe. The Kaikoura earthquakes highlight the vulnerability of our more remote areas with critical transport routes made impassable. And seismologists have been warning that the Alpine Fault in the Southern Alps could rupture sometime in the next 50 years.’
Mr Hughes said it was the existing remote attractions, such as vulnerable coastal areas, where many tourists wanted to visit. ‘But before we invest in attracting more visitors, we need to ensure there is good, safe infrastructure, plus access and plans in place in case of disasters. Proponents of a visitor tax suggest a levy to contribute to the increased demands on infrastructure. I suggest this also needs to contribute to a broader investment in infrastructure resilience.’