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Regional Council notes

June 8, 2020 June 2020 No Comments

There are pros and cons of tourism.  For Wairarapa, tourism provided business opportunity, creating jobs and encouraging people to come and live here.  Tourism gave us a name and things to hang to hang our hat on.  Whether it was pinot noir, local food, big skies, world class events or boutique concerts, they all were part of brand Wairarapa. When you combine that with our east coast weather and proximity to the Capital City it gave us an edge.  Wairarapa was seen by many as a winner.  Unpretentious, genuine and quality were all words synonymous with the Brand.

Then along came Covid 19 which basically flicked a switch and turned out the lights.  Now tourism is floundering around in the dark and many are facing the stark reality of businesses going broke and unemployment.

While that is bad enough there is also another downside for those lucky enough to still have a job and an income.  You see tourism gives us choices.  Cafes, shops and attractions that are mainly aimed at visitors are also available to the locals.  When those businesses thrive they support a service industry of trade’s people, professionals and transport that we can all take advantage of.  That in turn again gives locals choices and a greater range of expertise.

But tourism is fickle; driven by forces way beyond our control.  We’ve seen it before, but to a lesser extent, with SARS and the Global Financial Crisis when the subsequent downturns had economists predicting the death of small towns.  

Tourism also has a dark side; one that is kept locked away, like the mad aunt shut in an asylum, from whodunit books of long ago.  That dark side is too many people which results in pollution and destruction of places we hold dear.

It was happening here in NZ whether we admit it or not.  Too many people for places not built to take them and our environment buckling under pressure.  Even in Wairarapa with our vast empty spaces and low population the negative impact of tourism was being felt in some of the places we hold dear.

So, we have a challenge ahead. Somehow we must support and rebuild an industry that has served Wairarapa well in the good times but in a way that enhances our place, not just uses what it has to offer.

Tourism must become an industry that is required to be environmentally friendly and contribute to the cost of doing so, just the same as we demand of farmers and other primary producers today.  We need to accept that tourism does have an impact and you can’t just blame the cows.

This is a tiger we need at our table, not one we only hold by the tail.

Adrienne Staples

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