Sunday , May 27 2018

Is Christchurch too tourism focused?

Christchurch is prioritising tourism at the expense of the economy, the city’s former mayor has controversially claimed.

Garry Moore argues ChristchurchNZ, which was created last July to replace three different tourism and economic development bodies, is focussed on “PR and spin” rather than creating jobs.

His words come as latest figures show tourism injected more than $3.5 million into the region’s economy over the summer.

“The tourism group is quite strong, but the economic development group needs some work done on it,” he told Radio New Zealand.

“It’s easy to get distracted by PR and spin, and it is much harder to work with someone who is unemployed or somebody who has a business idea that they can’t get to go.”

ChristchurchNZ spokesperson Caroline Blanchfield says the tourism boom is driving economic development and the organisation has worked hard to secure those visitor dollars.

“When the cities filled up with visitors, the retailers, the hospitality, the whole city has a great vibe about it,” she said.

“It’s really regenerating that CBD area because that’s where a lot of the visitors go to.”

Latest figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show tourists spent $416 million in the region over the year to April, putting it second only to Auckland.

But Mr Moore argues the city’s development organisations “should be leading the way of saying to the universities and the research institutions ‘where are the new jobs?’ and ‘where is the new economy?’”.

“If you look at the centre of Christchurch…that should be filled with young people, with new businesses, trading there and trading with the world – that is economic development,” he said.

ChristchurchNZ CEO Joanna Norris says the organisation, which is majority funded through Christchurch City Council, has helped 600 new businesses establish over the past year.

And she claims visitor activity is a major driver of the city’s economic development.

“The more visitors we have – whether they are tourists, business visitors…that all stimulates economic activity which leads to growth in the local economy,” she said.

“We promote Christchurch because it supports economic development.”

Christchurch City Council’s draft development plan requires ChristchurchNZ to provide leadership in economic development, facilitate business development, encourage innovation, entrepreneurship and investment, lead city promotion and attract events.

But Mr Moore argues the plan is not ambitious enough, and has urged a rethink of ChristchurchNZ’s remit.


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