Anger as i-Site handed to the council

Tourism Eastland members vote overwhelmingly to step back.

Tourism Eastland members vote overwhelmingly to step back.

TRANSFERRING ASSETS: Ownership of Gisborne’s i-Site in Grey Street will be transferred to Gisborne District Council, after Tourism Eastland members voted last night to end its operations there. The region’s economic development agency Activate Tairawhiti will take over Tourism Eastland’s role as a additional regional tourism organisation in July. Picture by Liam Clayton

AFTER saying they have been financially “castrated” and “steamrolled” by Gisborne District Council, Tourism Eastland members have agreed that the organisation will stop operating Gisborne’s i-Site.

At a special meeting of Tourism Eastland last night, members voted overwhelmingly (two people abstained), to give the i-Site, along with its associated contracts, to the council. Members also voted not to wind up the incorporated society and to carry on as an independent tourism lobby group.

Tourism Eastland president David Sly said last night’s meeting was called to decide the future of the organisation and its main asset — the Grey Street i-Site building — with current funding due to be withdrawn next month.

“As of July 1, Tourism Eastland will no longer receive funding from Gisborne District Council. The $335,000 has been allocated to Activate Tairawhiti.”

Mr Sly said Tourism Eastland had been discussing with Activate Tairawhiti a merger of the two identities, as recommended by the council, for three years but had only now been given a written proposal on the way forward.

That left the organisation “with not a lot of options”, the meeting heard.

Addressing the meeting, Activate Tairawhiti chief executive Steve Breen said while Tourism Eastland had demonstrated some impressive growth statistics, the region could do better and get a better share of the nationwide tourism boom.

The new structure would be different from the existing model because, unlike Tourism Eastland which was an incorporated society, Activate Tairawhiti was a limited liability corporation.

Advisory boards established

Some specific advisory boards would also be established, to advise on activities including cruise ships.

“This is a wider play for economic prosperity around the region and tourism is at the front of the queue in terms of driving that approach.

“We have a number of key community stakeholders in the region who want to get behind tourism and want to get behind the model we’ve put forward. To date we have tripled the resources coming in to market the region, primarily through strong support from Eastland Community Trust, a lot of that leveraged off leadership of the council. That has given commercial stakeholders, particularly Air New Zealand who have been with us from the get-go, a reason to back us.

"They (Air NZ) see us as the sleeping giant of New Zealand tourism. If we can develop our products and get them to market, they believe there is a decent growth period ahead of us.”

Te Puni Kokiri were also funding a tourism development manager for the region, to focus on developing cultural tourism here.

Mr Breen said the approach was not all about getting more visitors to the region.

“It’s about getting more value from those visitors.”

Mr Breen told the meeting that Activate Tairawhiti would agree to take over the i-Site building on a one-year lease while it decided how best to use it as a resource.

Possibility of moving

That could include moving it in future to another location.

Activate Tairawhiti was unable to guarantee the futures of existing i-Site staff but they had all been asked to reapply for contracts.

Mr Breen pointed out that it was yet to be established what roles would be available, until a review had given the agency a better understanding of how to deliver the functions of an i-Site.

Tourism Eastland members said it was sad and heart-breaking that the building could be lost, after several members — including the late Raey Wheeler — invested their own personal money, without compensation, to build the i-Site.

Other members criticised the council’s role in the amalgamation process, which had ended with Tourism Eastland being “left in the lurch".

Concern was expressed that Wairoa, which benefited from Tourism Eastland’s role as a regional tourism organisation, would lose out in a more Gisborne-focused organisation.

One person said that could lead to operators in Wairoa and Gisborne fighting over ways to benefit from possible tourism spin-offs from the establishment of Rocket Lab at Mahia.

The meeting heard that Tourism Eastland could not continue to run the i-Site as “a financially-castrated organisation”.

There was little enthusiasm for Activate Tairawhiti’s vision of what members said was a top heavy proposal, delivered with little detail and “a lot of fluffy words”.

There was derision at the organisation’s perceived reliance on Air NZ. One board member said the organisation would be unable to take on the subsequent liabilities of running an i-Site without council funding.

“Tourism Eastland has been absolutely steamrolled by the council," the board member said.

“Essentially, we literally have very little choice. We are just going to have to rally together to ensure Activate Tairawhiti are getting it right.”

Keeping Activate Tairawhiti “honest”

Staying as an incorporated society would help Tourism Eastland keep Activate Tairawhiti “honest”, by remaining as a lobby group, the meeting was told.

District Council representative David Wilson admitted the three-year process leading up to last night’s meeting had been “rough for all for us”.

“I hear the frustration you have had.

“What I’m asking you to do now is support Activate Tairawhiti to get to where they need to be. What this is about is what’s best for the region.

“Activate Tairawhiti will need your help. There is no way they can do this without your help and the knowledge you have.”

AFTER saying they have been financially “castrated” and “steamrolled” by Gisborne District Council, Tourism Eastland members have agreed that the organisation will stop operating Gisborne’s i-Site.

At a special meeting of Tourism Eastland last night, members voted overwhelmingly (two people abstained), to give the i-Site, along with its associated contracts, to the council. Members also voted not to wind up the incorporated society and to carry on as an independent tourism lobby group.

Tourism Eastland president David Sly said last night’s meeting was called to decide the future of the organisation and its main asset — the Grey Street i-Site building — with current funding due to be withdrawn next month.

“As of July 1, Tourism Eastland will no longer receive funding from Gisborne District Council. The $335,000 has been allocated to Activate Tairawhiti.”

Mr Sly said Tourism Eastland had been discussing with Activate Tairawhiti a merger of the two identities, as recommended by the council, for three years but had only now been given a written proposal on the way forward.

That left the organisation “with not a lot of options”, the meeting heard.

Addressing the meeting, Activate Tairawhiti chief executive Steve Breen said while Tourism Eastland had demonstrated some impressive growth statistics, the region could do better and get a better share of the nationwide tourism boom.

The new structure would be different from the existing model because, unlike Tourism Eastland which was an incorporated society, Activate Tairawhiti was a limited liability corporation.

Advisory boards established

Some specific advisory boards would also be established, to advise on activities including cruise ships.

“This is a wider play for economic prosperity around the region and tourism is at the front of the queue in terms of driving that approach.

“We have a number of key community stakeholders in the region who want to get behind tourism and want to get behind the model we’ve put forward. To date we have tripled the resources coming in to market the region, primarily through strong support from Eastland Community Trust, a lot of that leveraged off leadership of the council. That has given commercial stakeholders, particularly Air New Zealand who have been with us from the get-go, a reason to back us.

"They (Air NZ) see us as the sleeping giant of New Zealand tourism. If we can develop our products and get them to market, they believe there is a decent growth period ahead of us.”

Te Puni Kokiri were also funding a tourism development manager for the region, to focus on developing cultural tourism here.

Mr Breen said the approach was not all about getting more visitors to the region.

“It’s about getting more value from those visitors.”

Mr Breen told the meeting that Activate Tairawhiti would agree to take over the i-Site building on a one-year lease while it decided how best to use it as a resource.

Possibility of moving

That could include moving it in future to another location.

Activate Tairawhiti was unable to guarantee the futures of existing i-Site staff but they had all been asked to reapply for contracts.

Mr Breen pointed out that it was yet to be established what roles would be available, until a review had given the agency a better understanding of how to deliver the functions of an i-Site.

Tourism Eastland members said it was sad and heart-breaking that the building could be lost, after several members — including the late Raey Wheeler — invested their own personal money, without compensation, to build the i-Site.

Other members criticised the council’s role in the amalgamation process, which had ended with Tourism Eastland being “left in the lurch".

Concern was expressed that Wairoa, which benefited from Tourism Eastland’s role as a regional tourism organisation, would lose out in a more Gisborne-focused organisation.

One person said that could lead to operators in Wairoa and Gisborne fighting over ways to benefit from possible tourism spin-offs from the establishment of Rocket Lab at Mahia.

The meeting heard that Tourism Eastland could not continue to run the i-Site as “a financially-castrated organisation”.

There was little enthusiasm for Activate Tairawhiti’s vision of what members said was a top heavy proposal, delivered with little detail and “a lot of fluffy words”.

There was derision at the organisation’s perceived reliance on Air NZ. One board member said the organisation would be unable to take on the subsequent liabilities of running an i-Site without council funding.

“Tourism Eastland has been absolutely steamrolled by the council," the board member said.

“Essentially, we literally have very little choice. We are just going to have to rally together to ensure Activate Tairawhiti are getting it right.”

Keeping Activate Tairawhiti “honest”

Staying as an incorporated society would help Tourism Eastland keep Activate Tairawhiti “honest”, by remaining as a lobby group, the meeting was told.

District Council representative David Wilson admitted the three-year process leading up to last night’s meeting had been “rough for all for us”.

“I hear the frustration you have had.

“What I’m asking you to do now is support Activate Tairawhiti to get to where they need to be. What this is about is what’s best for the region.

“Activate Tairawhiti will need your help. There is no way they can do this without your help and the knowledge you have.”

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