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Tourism operators’ plea to councils

As Long-Term Plan consultations draw to a close, Wairarapa tourism operators are urging councils to continue their support of Destination Wairarapa [DW].

The regional tourism organisation has three-year funding agreements with Masterton, Carterton, and South Wairarapa councils, but under Masterton’s preferred Long-Term Plan [LTP] option, funding of community groups and organisations would become contestable every 12 months, presenting a big unknown for DW.

Under this proposal, funding for Business Wairarapa and Pūkaha Mount Bruce National Wildlife Centre would also become contestable annually after their current agreements expire.

It would, however, open up Masterton District Council’s [MDC] $374k funding pool to all organisations and groups and provide a “more equitable approach to funding”, according to MDC’s LTP.

MDC’s other funding option, which maintains existing arrangements with organisations, means only $85k would be available to other groups through annual general contestable applications.

At this week’s Carterton District Council meeting, DW board member Roger Wigglesworth said he is “hoping reason would prevail” in Masterton and that DW will continue to be funded longer-term.

“We clearly see the risk,” Wigglesworth said.

“The risk is partly: will we be able to function, but also, will we be able to retain staff if year on year we are not sure if we can pay them?”

He said DW is doing “very careful lobbying” and will make a “very strenuous response to the LTP”.

“We have another whole year of funding so it wouldn’t kick in until 2025, but as a board, we are looking at that risk and what might happen in the event it does get passed.”

Meanwhile, an open letter to the three Wairarapa councils was penned on Friday by Wairarapa tourism heavyweights: Rosie and Nick Rogers [The White Swan Country Hotel and Tui Brewery]; Hari Mogosanu [Star Safari]; Lisa Portas [Palliser Ridge]; Katherine Jacobs [Big Sky Wines]; Tim Smith [Martinborough Hotel]; Jenna Snelgrove [Tranzit Group]; and Emily Court [Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre].

The letter outlines the reason they believe it is essential for the partnership between Wairarapa councils and DW to continue on more certain terms.

They said tourism is on the rise in Wairarapa, “reaching unprecedented heights following the major setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“The most recent data indicates that guest nights have increased by 10 per cent in the past 12 months, and visitor spend in the year to February 2023 hit a record level of $155 million.

“This is the result of an increase of 33.8 per cent in South Wairarapa, 16 per cent in Masterton, and 9.2 per cent in Carterton.

“In a time of nationwide economic recession and growing unemployment, a total of 1379 people are currently employed in tourism roles in the Wairarapa, which represents a jump of 19 per cent over the past year.

“That’s a lot of families who are relying upon the success of our industry to put food on the table during a major cost of living crisis.”

None of this tourism growth happens by accident, they said.

“The glue which holds the region’s tourism together is our regional tourism organisation – Destination Wairarapa.

“We simply couldn’t reach anything like our current levels of contribution to the local economy without the work they do.

“If you take away their expert promotion of our region as a destination, everybody loses, and the social wellbeing of our communities takes the biggest hit.”

They said DW helped put Wairarapa on the map via initiatives and promotions such as articles in lifestyle magazines in supermarkets and on Air New Zealand flights.

Just this week, DW organised for the popular Australian breakfast news and current affairs programme The Today Show to broadcast live from Martinborough Square, with a series of live crosses highlighting the best of Wairarapa tourism to a massive television audience.

They said regional tourism is reliant upon partnerships with local government and said the current three-year funding model is essential to provide the certainty and continuity required for DW to be able to plan and operate effectively.

Masterton’s LTP consultation closes on Monday at 10am, and Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell wants to see “as many submissions as possible” on the plan before the deadline.

Consultation on Carterton’s LTP and South Wairarapa’s enhanced annual plan closes on Sunday, May 5.


Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air


  1. Why is rate payers money required funding from businesses should fund DW. Rate payers have to pay for 3 councils money saved by amalgamation would save MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN WAGES? LESS VEHICLES? LESS EMISSIONS MAYBE LESS RATES???NO NEVER HAPPEN. THE GRAVEY TRAIN WILL NEVER CHANGE.

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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