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Promoting Scenic Route Could Boost Tourist Dollars For Canterbury

14 June

Turning drivers towards an Inland Scenic Route could be a cost-effective way to boost the economy, Ashburton councillors have been told.

Council economic development manager Simon Worthington detailed the promotion of the route in the Economic Development Strategy six monthly report last week.

The inland route, former state highway 72, stretches from Amberley to Geraldine and runs the width of the Ashburton District from the Rakaia to the Rangitata River (as Arundel Rakaia Gorge Road) along the foothills.

A working group of representatives from the Ashburton, Selwyn and Waimakariri district councils is exploring opportunities for the development and better promotion of the scenic driving route.

The group may also expand to incorporate the Timaru and Mackenzie councils so the route can link from Geraldine through the Mackenzie basin to Central Otago.

Mayor Neil Brown was curious about the economic benefit of promoting the inland scenic route.
“Beautiful drive, but what else is there economically?”

Worthington said there is evidence around touring routes being large economic generators.

Attracting more people to drive that route would result in more visitors to the attractions along the way, Worthington said.

“Methven is really logically situated for a night one stay of people doing the route,” he said.

“The idea being that you slow them down and make it sticky as they come through the district, and bring them into elements like Ōpuke [Thermal Pools] or jetboating on the Rakaia.”

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Brown had another money saving option to slow tourists.

“If we didn’t spend as much money on that road, then that would certainly slow them down and make it sticky for them."

His tongue in cheek remark refers to the historic issue the council has had funding road maintenance of the busy former state highway.

Former councillor Stu Wilson constantly referred to it as a “tourist route”, arguing on numerous occasions that while NZTA decided to remove the highway status it didn’t remove the traffic volumes, but the council was lumped with paying for its maintenance.

The maintenance costs for the 57km Arundel Rakaia Gorge Road for the last five years is $1.18 million, with rehabilitation costs of $2.86m.

Deputy Mayor Liz McMillan took a brighter approach, saying that promoting the route fitted in with linking the dark sky areas in Oxford and Tekapo, and the fact the council is looking into getting dark sky status for the Hakatere Conservation Park.

Dark sky has quite a following and adds another element to promoting the route, Worthington said.

“Another reason for people to stop in our district and stay the night."

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