Opunake Coastal Column - Regional Tourism

Columns
Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Earlier this year I walked the Pouakai Crossing, which is the fantastic one day walk up from the North Egmont Visitors Centre, around the mountain under the stunning Dieffenbach Cliffs down through the Ahukawakawa wetlands and then up over the Pouakai Ranges.   On a beautiful clear day a side walk down to the Pouakai Tarns is a must for that incredible photo of the mountain reflected in the Tarn.
It was a 7-8 hour walk, but very achievable with moderate fitness, and the changing scenery from alpine to forest landscape is definitely world class.  We know that many of the main tourism centres in New Zealand are at capacity during peak season, and even now areas such as Mt Cook and Queenstown are at capacity nearly all year round.  The only other National Park in the North Island besides Egmont is the Tongariro National Park, which is struggling with high visitor numbers on the Tongariro Crossing each year. 
I have been working alongside other agencies and organisations here in Taranaki to develop the potential around the Pouakai Crossing, as the development of great one day walks such as this will help grow our visitor industry and contribute to the growth of our tourism here in Taranaki.  Tourism is an area that with prioritising, resourcing and funding could see new businesses and ventures start. 
The Government is continuing to ensure regional New Zealand benefits from tourism growth with more funding for infrastructure and to help businesses get up and running.  Changes to the Tourism Growth Partnership (TGP) will see half of the $8 million annual fund made available exclusively for projects in the regions.
This targeted funding will help innovative New Zealanders in regions to turn a great idea into a business reality and reap the benefits of growth in the tourism sector.
The TGP was established in 2013. To date the fund has awarded $20.7 million to 28 projects and attracted co-funding of $60.5 million.
Also open for applications is the Government’s $3 million annual Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund.  This fund is about helping communities maximise their tourism growth by providing new or improved infrastructure for visitors, such as rubbish bins, carparks, and restrooms. These core facilities can get strained as tourism grows, and the support this funding provides will help provide the level of service New Zealand’s want to offer.
The tourism sector is experiencing exceptional growth, with visitor arrivals forecast to grow 5.4 per cent a year, reaching 4.5 million visitors in 2022 – up from 3.1 million in 2015.
Part of the Government’s tourism strategy is to ensure all regions continue to benefit from this growth, and these funding opportunities are another part of our wider work supporting the sector.
The recent visitor figures to Taranaki saw an increase in domestic visitors, but more work needs to be done to increase our overall tourism industry and increase our international visitor numbers.