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Tourism opportunities excite iwi

Hurunui o Rangi marae in Gladstone. PHOTO/ELISA VORSTER

ELISA VORSTER
[email protected]

Destination Wairarapa is once again reporting high percentage growth in the region’s tourism spend but the figures have left some asking if all communities are reaping the maximum benefits.

Questions were asked during Carterton District Council’s ordinary council meeting on Wednesday after Destination Wairarapa general manager David Hancock reported the region had the highest percentage growth in guest nights for August.

The data also showed a visitor spend of $188.47m, $16m of which was spent in Carterton, with Hancock saying tourism in Wairarapa continues to grow at an “astounding” rate.

However, a reference in the report regarding a Maori heritage walk prompted Hurunui o Rangi marae representative PJ Devonshire to ask Hancock if iwi could be more actively involved in future tourism opportunities.

Waiohine Gorge swing bridge, one of Carterton’s hidden gems. PHOTO/FILE

Hancock acknowledged expanding Maori tourism in the region would need to involve iwi.

“We can’t do it without you,” he said.

Devonshire has since arranged a meeting with Hancock, saying the communication between Ngati Kahungunu and Destination Wairarapa was something both parties were willing to work on.

“I think Destination Wairarapa are doing some really good stuff and the numbers are really exciting,” Devonshire said.

“I feel there’s a big opportunity for Maori in tourism and both Kahungunu and Rangitane have the opportunity to bring value to some of these things.”

Councillors agreed to send a letter to Destination Wairarapa backing the needs of iwi, which Devonshire said showed the strength of the relationship between his people at the Gladstone marae and the council.

“We’re at the stage where we’re listened to and our advice is taken and sought after and it’s really awesome.”

Chief executive Jane Davis said the council will also be putting through its own suggestions to Destination Wairarapa, which included ways to attract more visitors to Carterton which will benefit the town’s economy.

“Carterton District Council is a significant funder and the expectation is the general promotion of the Carterton district to benefit the community.”

Councillor Rebecca Vergunst said increased promotion of events from Destination Wairarapa combined with the town finding ways to market its “hidden gems” in a way that was more attractive to tourists would help Carterton increase its appeal to visitors.

The council provides $58,000 a year over its three-year agreement with Destination Wairarapa, as well as the Events Centre contributing as a Destination Wairarapa member.

The Destination Wairarapa AGM will be held on Monday 5.30pm at the Carterton Events Centre.

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