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Mark Burton address to Ruapehu Mountain Clubs Assn

Address to the AGM/Dinner of the Ruapehu Mountain Clubs Association, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd, and the Department of Conservation

Good evening. I’m delighted to have the chance to speak to you this evening, both as the Minister of Tourism and, of course, as your local MP.

As Minister of Tourism, I usually get to be the bearer of good news, and I’m happy to say, tonight is one of those occasions.

The outlook for tourism in New Zealand is extremely positive. We have recovered from the significant downturn that followed the events of September 11, 2001, more quickly than any of us could have imagined.

By January 2002, we were back onto a growth path.

Our visitor numbers and expenditure have remained positive throughout the year, with only a small dip in the days running up to September 11 this year.

It was perhaps inevitable that many travellers would be cautious about the first anniversary of those terrible events.

However, in the year to June, international arrivals were up almost 5%, visitor days were up almost 14% and visitor expenditure was up almost 15%.

All forecasts point to this trend continuing. We expect international visitor arrivals to increase by 6% per year to 2008, with corresponding growth in the key yield factors of visitor days and expenditure.

Tourism operators can look forward to steady growth of 22% in domestic spend and 72% in international spend by 2008.

Of course, none of this has happened by chance. There is no doubt that our geographic location is significant.

But it happened in part because the government and the tourism sector have built a strong network of public/private partnerships—well illustrated in the sector-wide collaborative work between government and industry representatives to create the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010.

These same partnerships and working relationships meant that, in a time of serious crisis, we were able to employ an effective, efficient use of resources. Without such networks in place, New Zealand’s tourism market might not have recovered as quickly as it did.

This is something I know you all understand. Living in the shadow of Ruapehu means living with the knowledge that a crisis can come at any time.

You all know that at such times, our communities rely on the strength and loyalty of our networks.

So I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to the Ruapehu Mountain Clubs Association, Ruapehu Alpine Lifts Ltd, and the Department of Conservation for the work you have done to forge this partnership. It is an excellent example of the kinds of partnerships we need to see across the industry.

Skiing offers enormous benefits to our local economy. Skiers spend $20 million per season in the ski fields alone. In addition, they are estimated to spend $70 per head per day in communities around the mountain.

A substantial amount of money, with huge socio-economic implications for the entire district.

But these economic benefits must be balanced against the impacts of 10,000 people per day coming into an environmentally delicate and potentially dangerous area—an exceptionally difficult task.

And yet, this balance is being achieved in relation to our visitors. This partnership of ski clubs, operators and the Department of Conservation is working towards one goal: to make sure that tourism in Tongariro is economically, environmentally and socially sustainable.

Indeed, this is the core idea underpinning the Tourism Strategy 2010—and you are making it happen.

You are working in partnership to address issues of infrastructure and funding.

You have worked with iwi to create Karioi Rahui, a mainland island where native birds can flourish.

And you are working with GNS (Geological and Nuclear Sciences) on the Lahar monitoring system. This system ensures early eruption detection, while those who are on the mountain work collectively to manage the risks involved in a Lahar break.

I understand you had a trial of the system last Wednesday, and that the results were extremely positive.

Congratulations on creating such a successful partnership. The benefits of your work extend to the local community, visitors to the district, and the environment itself.

I wish you well for your annual meeting tonight, and continued success for the future. I am sure you will work together to find innovative solutions to all the issues up for discussion this evening, as well as planning new initiatives for the future.

And finally, thank you for your significant contributions, both to the tourism sector as a whole, and to the local community.

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