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Heritage Region - The Other Players!

These are the notes from two further meetings held to discuss support for the Heritage Region concept. The first is hardly surprising, but seems to ignore the 'kick in the shins' received from Maggie Barry immediately prior, and described in the previous post.

"Meeting with Chris Roberts, CE, NZ Tourism Industry Association, Mayor Glenn Leach, Brent Page (Chair, TCDC Economic Development Committee)

Mayor Glenn gave a background to the Heritage Region concept noting the location of the Coromandel in the "golden triangle" formed by Auckland, Hamilton and Tauranga and the increasing number of free independent travelers that were such a large component of visitors to the Coromandel.

Freedom camping: Glenn then raised the issue of freedom camping and the negative aspects that this was having for the Coromandel and its council noting in particular the Heritage Region concept and the Great Walks project. Chris noted that the vehicle hire firms do not see it as their responsibility

A robust discussion on the issue ensued and covered matters such as operator responsibility, mechanisms to ensure compliance with visitor obligations and by-law observation; escalating the matter to LGNZ with a possible redress mechanism being through legislation. Chris Roberts indicated that he was prepared to raise with the vehicle hire firms concerned that were TIA members but noted that several firms were not members of the Association.

Bookabach: The meeting then discussed the "Bookabach" issue, that is the presence and impact of on- line travel aggregators (OTAs).

Brent Page noted that this was a modern phenomenon driven by the internet and the opportunities presented to the OTAs which required a national approach with a suggestion for a sector roundtable to address the issues of contention. The impacts were affecting local government in its capacity as the supplier of infrastructure particularly in the area of water supply and wastewater treatment. The OTA model was also impacting traditional accommodation providers which, as Brent noted, was always a feature of innovation and exacerbator technology within an established market, e.g. Uber and the taxi market.

Discussion noted the prevalence of local OTAs on the Coromandel scene with the prospect of new international entrants, such as AirBnB, heating the issue up significantly.

It was noted that the IRD is aware of the issue and had advised operators of their obligations and to ensure, at this stage, its expectation of voluntary compliance with taxation obligations.

Heritage Region: Chris indicated in very positive terms the Association's response to the Heritage Region proposal. Glenn sought a letter of support which Chris was happy to supply."

Good luck with the letter of support from Chris Roberts - lot of good that will do, and the half-hearted response to get the co-operation of the vehicle hiring companies, specifically in regard to the debiting of fines to the credit cards of hirers who have breached the laws - particularly relating to 'freedom camping.' Government won't legislate, and hiring companies - principal player - NZ Campervans (Mr Chris Alpe) in particular, will continue to thumb their noses at Council and the LG Association.

As for the Aggregators, and Air BnB, councils are just beginning to come to terms with the new internet reality. Getting participants to pay their way with appropriate rating to support the additional infrastructure required to service the projected increase in tourism numbers through these agencies will undoubtedly test the very structure of local government before too long. This especially with central Government running a mile rather than provide additional regulation to assist in this area. That is the reality!

The next set of notes relates the meeting at DoC the following day - out of order, but in the same context at the meeting with the TIA on 17 September:

Meeting at the Department of Conservation, 18th September. In attendance: Mayor Glenn Leach, Brent Page (Chair, TCDC Economic Development Committee) Scott Simpson MP for Coromandel Department of Conservation staff: Carl McGuinness (Acting Deputy Director-General, Conservation Partnerships) and Nicky Douglas

Welcoming statements followed by a discussion around possible change of working title for the Heritage Region to "Kaitiaki Coromandel".

Mayor Glenn expects to soon meet with the Hauraki Mãori Trust Board to discuss the Heritage Region concept (as well as the Sugar Loaf proposal). Further meetings are expected to be convened with individual and collective Hauraki runanga.

Scott Simpson framed the question: "What does TCDC want from DoC?"

Brent Page responded acknowledging that any working title needs to resonate with all communities. DoC needed to identify pressure points in the Heritage Region proposal document before it goes to the wider public. In addition, TCDC would like to establish direct lines of communication with DoC senior officials and for both agencies to agree on a unity of purpose.

Carl agreed and noted that the main pressure point for DoC was around its finances and the resources that it could bring to bear. Any allocation to a new project, such as the Heritage Region, would require a reallocation from an existing project - hopefully one that was nearing or was at completion. He white-boarded how DoC finances work.

As for a working title, Carl suggested letting the process drop a name/title out - not too keen on "Kaitiaki Coromandel".

The Heritage Region project needed to work on community buy-in mechanisms and DoC happy to work on how best to achieve that. Nicky used the example of a recent DoC project and is happy for the individual concerned to provide advice and the benefit of her experience to TCDC.

Nicky noted that DoC's Coromandel conservation management plan (CMS) contained the Department's values and goals, objectives and goals for the assets and estate that it manages. She indicated that with the pending settlement of Hauraki Treaty claims the CMS would be reviewed. This provided an opportunity for TCDC, on behalf of its communities of interest, to become involved.

Glenn noted that there were possible linkages with Council's district plan. Nicky agreed noting that the CMS was DoC's "district plan."

Nicky noted and expanded on her earlier comments that the CMS engagement model was "highly" successful as a consultative framework. Sarah Owen was the DoC staffer leading the CMS engagement.

Carl, in answer to Brent's earlier request indicated he, Nicky and Gemma White were the points of contact for TCDC in regard to the Heritage Region project. He also noted that it was important to line up the industry/sector groups to avoid any hijacking and/or left opposition to the Heritage Region project.

This last high-lighted sentence is interesting as it does indicate a mindset at senior levels of the public service   that opposition to the Heritage Region Project is seen in those quarters as somehow based in the "left opposition" of politics. These are only 'Notes,' but Carl McGuinness may be 'out of order,' and embarrassed  with this comment, faithfully reported!

Reference to "hijacking" would appear superfluous in view of the strong opposition to the concept already expressed by Minister Maggie Barry, and virtually every other interested party apart from the NZ Tourism Industry Association, and that is hardly surprising. DoC support is irrelevant in any case in the light of the Barry reaction, but does not appear to have penetrated though to her senior echelon!

The whole reaction by the tourism sector indicates just how beholden our Council, (and DoC!) have become to that industry since the advent of this Council. It creates grave dangers for the rest of us when people like Leach are so single-minded in seeking tourism at the expense of every other sector.





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