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Local Government New Zealand Tourism Symposium

Local Government New Zealand Tourism Symposium

Thank you for inviting me to join you here this morning. I’m pleased to be part of this Symposium and enthusiastic about the work you will be doing here.

The issues surrounding the growth of tourism are of relevance to both the industry and government. Over the next day and a half, you will be exploring the role local government plays in tourism and devising strategies to ensure the sector’s sustainability within our communities.

Tourism is a vital part of New Zealand’s economy, comprising 10% of our gross domestic product. The industry also supports one in ten jobs and over 15,000 tourism businesses throughout New Zealand

Tourism is also a major contributor in the regions. Domestic visitors are the backbone of the industry in many regions. In 2001, 50 million domestic visitor nights were spent in New Zealand, adding $4.3 billion to our economy.

By 2008, this is expected to grow to $5.3 billion

Many of you here today will, I hope, be contributing to these domestic tourism statistics, spending money on accommodation, meals, post-symposium activities and enjoying the facilities provided by both the industry and the Christchurch City Council.

But domestic tourism is only part of the picture. International tourism is also an invaluable contributor that has grown steadily over the last decade. In 2001, 1.9 million overseas visitors came to New Zealand, spending $5.2 billion while they were here.

By 2008, we expect these figures to nearly double. International visitors are expected to number 2.9 million, spending more than $9.7 billion.

The size and economic importance of the tourism industry, combined with its rapid growth, presents issues that must be considered by both the industry and central and local government.

And, if these growth levels are going to be sustainable in the long term, it is essential for us all to work together on effective strategies for the future.

It is my strong view that, while increasing visitor numbers is important, it is even more important to achieve our aims of balanced economic benefit and sustainability. To do this, we must encourage those visitors to come to New Zealand at different times of the year, to visit different localities, to stay longer, to spend more, and to experience a wider range of products.

I know that as a sector, you are taking issues of sustainability seriously.

This was the goal behind the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010. A team of public and private industry stakeholders produced the Strategy in 2001. Kerry Marshall represented Local Government New Zealand on the ten-member Tourism Strategy Group.

The Strategy defines the overall direction for the tourism sector as:

“A sustainable, yield-driven strategy based on growing tourism demand and financial returns while enhancing the quality of the visitor experience and New Zealanders’ quality of life.”

The Strategy aims to create a plan for the sustainable development of the whole tourism sector.

The government doesn’t own Strategy 2010. I cannot stress that enough. The entire tourism sector owns it collectively, and its success depends on the sector adopting aspects of the Strategy that are relevant to them. And while the Strategy provides guidance on the tourism sector’s most important issues, it doesn’t provide all the answers.

(You should have received a summary copy of the Strategy in the post. If you didn’t, they are available from the Ministry of Tourism stand. You should be sure to visit them during the Symposium, as they have a great deal of useful information on offer, free of charge)

The Strategy places a high value on promoting a variety of tourism styles. We recognise that visitors come to New Zealand for many reasons. For some, it is our world-renowned environment. These visitors certainly provide an additional economic incentive for the environmental care and protection that is our collective responsibility.

Visitors also provide the motivation for local and regional councils to build and maintain high quality leisure facilities. Businesses, too, have an incentive to provide a wide variety of high-quality goods and services.

As a result, local residents and local communities benefit as well as our visitors. We all get to enjoy services supported by our international visitors, from the wide variety of restaurants and cafes on Oxford Terrace to well-maintained tracks, huts and facilities.

For other visitors, tourism is about culture, particularly Maori culture. This type of tourism provides a way to earn revenue from the unique way of life that is New Zealand. This is a very powerful point of difference in our international marketing, and New Zealand is beginning to be internationally known for such events as the Wild Food Festival, the World of Wearable Art Awards and Pacifica, among others.

All New Zealanders stand to benefit from turning the Strategy’s vision for the industry into a reality. New Zealand will be seen as a year-round destination, known for its diverse culture and high-quality products and events.

The vision is for a tourism market that is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable, supported by communities, by Maori, by business and by our visitors. Tourism can continue to build and provide employment and income for our regions, and it can enhance rather than detract from our way of life.

With several initiatives already in place, we are on our way to achieving these goals.

In keeping with a strong industry push through the Strategy process, we now have a Ministry of Tourism, created to provide policy advice on tourism issues and to manage information and research through the Tourism Research Council NZ, which I established in 2000.

Tourism New Zealand is actively involving the industry in their strategic planning processes and focussing on providing enhanced feedback to regions on the state of our overseas markets.

The Tourism Industry Association of NZ has taken the lead in shaping our small and medium enterprises. The Association is developing an innovative set of business tools and working on improvements in industry training.

And this government has put its money where its mouth is and invested further in the industry. In last year’s budget, funding of $3.6 million was made available for a range of developments, including:

Further development of the Visitor Information Network Inc. This has gone hand-in-hand with the co-ordinated national rollout of the new “i-SITE” brand, which will raise the profile of this important service, both in New Zealand and overseas.

Expanding Qualmark through a three-year plan that will drive enhanced quality standards across the tourism sector. This is a vital step to ensuring that the New Zealand experience is world-class.

Funding for a response to the Strategy by Regional Tourism Organisations, which I understand will involve a comprehensive report and recommendations on projects that they propose to undertake

Funding for the local government response to the Tourism Strategy

The Symposium today is part of that response, and it offers us an opportunity to tackle some complex issues.

This symposium is based on information gained by three reviews of local government involvement in tourism and a series of five workshops on tourism for Councillors and Council staff.

Local government is one of our biggest tourism operators, but sometimes it is easy to forget the extent of the role each Council plays in tourism. In fact, almost all Council decisions impact on the tourism sector in some way.

Councils make three key contributions to the tourism sector:

marketing their region providing infrastructure and attractions, and regulating development and activities.

All Councils are involved in marketing their region as a visitor destination. Marketing includes funding for Regional Tourism Organisations, contributing funds to the Visitor Information Centre or publicising local activities such as sports events, A&P shows, Christmas Parades, or summer entertainment in parks and gardens. All of these can become visitor attractions in their own right.

Councils also take the lead in funding attractions and infrastructure, much of it for the benefit of your local communities. Attractions such as museums, art galleries, swimming pools and sporting and leisure complexes improve the quality of life for local residents and provide core facilities for visitors as well. And of course both communities and visitors also need the traditional basic infrastructure provision of roads, sewerage, water, public toilets and rubbish disposal.

The extent to which these facilities are used by tourists rather than residents is difficult to measure. This can create challenges when new facilities are being planned.

However, local government has a variety of tools available for assessing and planning for the needs of visitors in your area. These processes can help you shape and direct tourism in your region.

The Long Term Community Plans proposed in the new Local Government Bill will provide a new opportunity to think about and plan for tourism development that reflects the wishes of the local community.

You also have other tools at your disposal:

District Plans under the Resource Management Act to control land use Long range Asset Management Plans and Annual Plans to drive your infrastructure planning

By combining good information with these processes, local government can plan effectively for residents and visitors alike.

The New Zealand Tourism Strategy recognised the importance of local government as a key stakeholder in the tourism sector. Indeed, local government featured in a number of the Strategy’s 43 main recommendations. (I won’t read them all—I do have a time limit!)

Some of the recommendations relating to local government include:

Improved planning for the tourism sector Stronger, more consistently funded Regional Tourism Organisations Closer alignment of destination marketing and destination management Identification of infrastructure needs and local government’s role.

The Symposium provides us with a valuable opportunity to think about these recommendations, while we take the next day and a half to reflect on all the ways local government can be involved in tourism.

As I indicated earlier, this government has allocated $3.6 million in funding for Strategy initiatives this year, with ??? last year and $2.5 million in out years. Local Government New Zealand has already accessed some of the Strategy funding to develop the local government response which we are part of today.

I will be happy to consider further proposals from Local Government New Zealand to assist with any projects that are identified during the course of the Symposium as essential to implementing the Tourism Strategy.

I know that you will clearly identify a range of priorities and projects during the Symposium which will indicate the shape of the involvement that local government needs to take. Some of these are likely to be joint initiatives, responding to the issues shared by individual Councils, Regional Tourism Organisations, LGNZ and other industry stakeholders.

Some regions have indicated that there is a need to clarify the relationship between Councils and the Regional Tourism Organisations. In order to gain agreement on such issues as long-term funding, strategic planning, clear accountabilities, agreed responsibilities and deliverables, effective partnerships are vital. It is absolutely essential that Councils and Regional Tourism Organisations are very clear on who is doing what, and on what issues they need to talk to each other.

Sharing best-practice knowledge is an excellent way to achieve this. Councils have a lot to learn from each other, and I believe that Local Government New Zealand has a key role to play in taking the lead in ensuring that expertise is shared within the local government sector.

It would be of great benefit to define best practice guidelines for such issues as: Planning for tourism Funding, accountability and governance of Regional Tourism Organisations Managing the relationship between the marketing of a destination and the operational running of that destination

Another message that I have heard regularly is the need for more research at the regional level. This kind of information is vital for long-term infrastructure planning. After all, good knowledge is essential to well-founded decision-making.

As I noted earlier, in response to this important issue, the government established the Tourism Research Council New Zealand. The Research Council’s main focus is to provide the tourism sector with up-to-date information and research.

Its first task has been to improve the consistency and quality of core tourism data. The next stage is to enhance the dissemination of that data to users. The Ministry of Tourism is currently in the process of developing a web-based, user-friendly tool that will convey this core data and research to users in a timely, convenient way.

(This tool is being demonstrated here at Ministry of Tourism stand, so please go and have a look.)

The third phase will be to develop the Research Council’s research capability and find ways to work more closely with industry and other stakeholders. As we develop these techniques, we will be able to maximise our collective resources and develop a shared, comprehensive research agenda.

I recognise the need for improved data at the regional level. We need regionally generated data to supplement the data currently gathered through national surveys. To achieve this, we need to develop agreed methodologies that will produce regionally specific information that is nationally consistent. This is an area where the Research Council, local government, Regional Tourism Organisations and other stakeholders can all work together.

Infrastructure is a key issue for regional development. It is one that government is keenly aware of. Clearly, tourism is not the only sector where this must be addressed. For example, we’ve seen similar sorts of demands forecast by growth in the wood-processing sector.

So, an integrated approach is necessary, and we are currently working to develop a co-ordinated central government policy on regional infrastructure needs.

We need to take a good look at our situation and evaluate our current level of infrastructure--what it costs to maintain and replace, who uses it, and what we are going to need if we are going to meet our future economic development and population needs. This process has already begun in some regions through the Regional Partnerships Programme, but these are questions that every local government is going to have to ask itself and its community.

We are committed to working with local government to develop a sustainable tourism industry, one that benefits our regions economically, environmentally and socially. By making the commitment to be here today you are clearly just as committed to your region. You are all aware of how important tourism is economically, both on a national and regional level.

The industry is worthy of your time and consideration. It involves serious numbers, serious local government investment and has huge potential for all of our regions. You are a major part of the tourism industry.

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