Tag Archives: Tourism

Portobello has been a popular visitor area for 120 years

A Quiet Corner of the World

A Leopard Seal on a Peninsula Beach has come from Antarctica to enjoy the sun. International visitors of any kind have been rare on the Otago Peninsula since March 2020.

Its been noticeably quiet on the Otago Peninsula  with the latest Covid-19 related lockdown and our progression into level two.  As we move into spring and the days get longer the Peninsula begins awakening and preparing for summer. Both people and animals begin to shrug off the last vestiges of winter as the lawnmower gets dusted off and birds begin their frantic nest building in garages and trees around our community.

However, one thing that has not been awakened has been the visitor and tourism sector. Since our first lockdown in March 2020  and our second in August 2021 our local tourism industry has been under significant pressure. In 2019, New Zealand’s tourism industry generated $40.9 billion NZD in revenue (nearly 10% to New Zealand’s GDP) and creating nearly 400,000 jobs. This equates to 14.4% of all employment in New Zealand  working in a tourism related job (Stats NZ 2019). The Otago Peninsula’s reliance on international visitors is demonstrated by research that conservatively suggests that wildlife alone on the Otago Peninsula generates $100 million NZD annually and creates 800-1000 full-time equivalent jobs in the Dunedin area. With a record drop of 12.2% in GDP the contribution of tourism to the national economy has been keenly felt. The hours worked in the tourism industry has declined from 12%-59% across New Zealand.  This has been particularly high in Otago with a 32% decline in hours worked (Stats NZ 2020).

The 1980’s campaign to see more of New Zealand was developed to encourage domestic tourism. In the post Covid-19 climate domestic tourism would need to increase 72% to deal with the loss of international visitors.

After the eventual return to level one in 2020 there was a significant effort to encourage New Zealanders to travel and use local tourist services as domestic travellers. There was certainly some return on that campaign, but economically domestic tourism would need to increase by 72% to completely fill the void left by international tourism. (NZ Tourism, November 2020). Around 60% in tourism-related expenditure is either directly or indirectly generated by domestic tourism. Nationally, only in Auckland and Otago (including the Peninsula) does the international tourism expenditure outstrip domestic travellers. (ASB)

After the 2020 lockdown there was discussion about needing to “reset’ tourism in the wake of the closure of our borders. Certainly, its been a time to contemplate change, but just how much change remains debatable. Until we can open international borders safely and ensure that visitors and the local populace are vaccinated we remain very much in limbo. With the Australian response to the virus so varied and inconsistent it seems doubtful we’ll see one of our major markets open up to the industry for some time. I hope I’m wrong, because Covid-19 has been particularly tough on the visitor sector on the Otago Peninsula. Not too mention the prolonged Level 4 status of Auckland in 2021 which has not made the current conditions any easier. Finding solutions to this issue is not simple and finding the balance between opening up New Zealand’s borders and containing the spread of this deadly virus is a difficult one to navigate. Presently, all we can do is support those local businesses in our area by shopping local, supporting their events and recommending to all in sundry what they have to offer. Next time you meet someone who works in the tourism sector give them a smile and thank them for boxing on in very trying times.

 

Broadband on the Peninsula

Submission Picture

Click picture to read full submission

Many households and businesses have frustrations over the availability and quality of broadband in New Zealand. It seems to be taking forever for the fibre network and rural broadband initiatives to become available for many. The Otago Peninsula is no different and given its importance to the local economy as a tourism destination the need for better broadband coverage is becoming more apparent. At a broader level, business, education and community opportunities are being impeded by not having a reliable and accessible service.

No matter what scale business is, the opportunities that broadband provides are immense to improve productivity, the way people work and the way they promote their business. I was asked by the Peninsula Community Board to put together a submission to the Governments Digital Enablement Plan. The submission will be part of the Dunedin city Council’s citywide submission on broadband for Dunedin. I would have liked to have placed the direction of the submission from inquiry from the wider community, but time did not allow that. I’ve tried to provide a balance between business and community needs over the broadband issue so that everyone gets a fair degree of representation. I’m still very open to people contacting me if they have any thoughts or queries about the submission.

Trial by Bylaw

I’m just not convinced that city councillors fully understand the freedom camping issue on the Peninsula (ODT). Undertaking “Bylaw by trial” is not what’s required here and its a poor alternative to appropriate policy based on real evidence and research. The other issue is the fallacy that “there must be a demand” because of the people using Macandrew Bay as a camping site. That’s like saying all students are drunks because of the broken glass in the street. By creating the site at Macandrew Bay the Bylaw has artificially created the demand because the Council have offered something that is free and available. If you’re a traveller why would you pay when you can have something for free? In the 20 years I’ve lived on the Peninsula, freedom camping has never been so bad since the liberalisation of the new bylaw. I also don’t buy into the notion that these types of visitors won’t use a campground anyway. There’s no freedom camping allowed by Lakes District Council in Queenstown unless you’re in a self contained vehicle, and even then sites are restricted. So where do they go? You can’t tell me that many of the visitors that turn up in Dunedin don’t visit the Queenstown area. So they must use accommodation providers when they’re there, surely.

The other big “myth” about freedom camping is its contribution to the local economy. I say it’s a  myth because even tourism authorities can’t actually place a value on what it contributes to the economy. Which leads me back to my first comment that policy decisions need empirical evidence and  with the bylaw trial we’re not seeing that research being done. I’m not talking about a basic count of numbers, I’m talking about actual rates of camper’s consumption of services and attractions vs. cost, understanding choice selection of services and service demand. Without that economic information the bylaw is largely a hopeful punt, which in its present form isn’t doing our community any great service.

As to the notion of a “DoC” style camping ground I’m quite dubious about this option as a real solution. Should the Council be competing with the private sector in the accommodation market? Does it actually have the funds to create such an option? Looking at the present Annual Plan I’d have to say it probably doesn’t have the capital to do so. Which leads you back to the private sector option. If the demand for a “DoC” style freedom camping site is so high as we’re led to believe, why hasn’t an investor in the private sector taken up the challenge? Quite simply I’d say because the returns on such an investment are not that economic. Which means that if the Council were to create such an area they would be creating a ratepayer subsidised camping ground. So not only would it be in direct competition with the private sector, but it would actually need to subsidise the service with ratepayers money to make it work. That’s not good economics for either the private sector or the ratepayer, especially when we have no idea what freedom camping actually contributes to the local economy. The alternative and fairer approach would be to work with private sector accommodation providers to look at a commercial option to solve the problem. The other issue though is that freedom camping is not just a problem for the Peninsula community. It’s actually an issue for the whole city, so any type of campground option needs to meet the needs of the city at a strategic level.

I don’t have all the answers, but I would say that resourcing staff in the enforcement aspect of this issue is in need of a review and that would certainly be a good start. We’ve seen that the signage and patrols at Macandrew Bay have made a difference, but is it too late? None of that enforcement action came early enough and now we’re into Autumn the visitor season is waning. One of the other issues with the Bylaw for visitors and residents is that it’s too complicated. The whole notion of “contained” and “non contained” vehicles is very misleading. You have limits on numbers and length of stay for certain sites based on vehicle type, but no ability to actually police that over the entire city. This complicated formula and lack of enforcement resources largely makes the rule redundant. The other point is that even “contained” camper vans still create problems. It’s well-known in the accommodation sector that hirers of camper vans with toilets pay a $500 bond for cleaning, but if you don’t use the toilet in the van you get part of your bond back! Figure that one out!

One of the things I am certain of, is that many Peninsula residents welcome visitors, but they’ve grown weary of people taking advantage of their region. It’s time we took control here and managed this in a better and more consistent way. We need less cheerleading and more empirical information on how to make visitors stay here, a pleasant one without damaging the lifestyles and businesses of our community and region.  Below is a picture of the Okia Reserve car-park on the Peninsula, the toilet paper is a reminder that we have visitors who show little respect for our landscape and environment. Most wouldn’t do that at home so why do it in ours? Its time for change.

People using the Peninsula countryside for toileting

People are using the Peninsula countryside for toileting and this devalues our community and our environment

A Lapse in Concentration

I’ve been a little tardy at utilising my blog to discuss the issues that I meet in a weekly basis in my role as Deputy Chairman of the Otago Peninsula Community Board. I could blame distractions like family or work but largely its been a lapse in literary concentration. So with new resolve I’m going to make a better effort to write more about my observations of life on the Otago Peninsula.

Freedom Camping

Freedom CampingFreedom camping has been the hot topic in the Macandrew Bay community and the Peninsula with the initiation of a two-year trial accompanying the change in the Dunedin City Council’s Bylaw. The trial site at Macandrew Bay with its limitation of 5 vehicles has clearly been oversubscribed and placed considerable pressure on parking, toilet facilities, accessibility and community use of the playground. Other deeper issues have arisen including anxiety about the safety of children, the consultation process for the Bylaw, public health, inappropriate behaviour and negative effects on lifestyle including the alienation of the community in their own neighbourhood. Those feelings were evident at the public meeting I attended on March 2nd at the Macandrew Bay Hall where 42 people out of an audience of around 100 residents spoke eloquently and passionately about the issue.

My own collection of data from Macandrew Bay over the last 21 days has revealed 274 vehicles have used the site and only on 3 occasions has the limit of 5 vehicles contained within the Bylaw been achieved. If you consider that most camping vehicles have at least 2 people aboard that’s 548 people who have used this area and clearly that places a strain on existing facilities and infrastructure.

In general people on the Peninsula welcome visitors, but there is a growing frustration in the community that the effects of freedom camping may actually outweigh the benefits. Importantly too, the community must feel that there is the support of the City Council to enforce and educate visitors on the bylaw to ensure that residents are able to retain their lifestyle and values in a community that they love, but are willing to share.

I took the time to summarise the views of all of the speakers at the public meeting into some key categories and this is presented in the graph below. The meeting gave me a very clear direction from the community as to the problems and issues the community were facing. One of the lower ranking issues, but one of considerable concern was the facilitating of the illegal trade in flora and fauna through opening up of the Peninsula through freedom camping.  In 2011-2012 wildlife smugglers used campervans as bases for the poaching of Jewelled Gecko’s from sites on Otago and Bank’s Peninsula.

Freedom camping Issues

 I was pleased to see a number of speakers and residents also attend the Board’s last meeting and speak at the public forum. The Board resolved to ask the Council to abandon the trial by Easter this year and seek alternative sites. However, its my personal view that the entire Bylaw and the current legislation the Freedom Camping Act 2011 needs significant review and change. I’d like to see the Dunedin City Council and other local authorities lobby the government to improve the legislation around regulation and management for the benefit of communities. While its been suggested that “DoC” style freedom camping area be developed on the Otago Peninsula, I think a more strategic view is required here that deals with the effects of freedom camping on a city-wide basis within all of the community’s affected by this activity. That also requires a greater level of research and information that can be used to determine better regulatory and economic outcomes for the community. I look forward to hearing from the community on this issue so that those outcomes can be achieved.