Conference sparks call for more

SHARE

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher has hailed this week’s Irrigation New Zealand Conference as a success for Oamaru, but believes the challenge is now to attract more large conferences to North Otago.
The conference, which wrapped up yesterday, was held at the Oamaru Opera House, while a large marquee was erected on Wear St to house trade exhibits.
Mr Kircher said organisers were “very pleased” with how it went, but admitted it was a “big logistical challenge” for a town the size of Oamaru to host such a large conference, which attracted more than 400 people from around the country.
He felt getting the event was a coup and said a lot of work was going on to attract conferences of a similar size to North Otago.
“A lot of work has been going into attracting big conferences to Oamaru. The Oamaru Opera House has a person working on that, and there are a number of other people working on pitching to conference organisers … I regularly get asked to provide letters of support for different bids.”While Mr Kircher said Oamaru could easily cater for conferences that attracted fewer than 150 people, when that number grew to 250 or higher, it became “more difficult”.
One key issue was a lack of accommodation in Oamaru. All of Oamaru’s accommodation providers were full for the irrigation conference and some people stayed in Moeraki, Kurow and Hampden and even as far away as Waimate and Timaru.
“Overall, we do need more accommodation,” Mr Kircher said.
“We will keep working away on that, but that’s not to be based on just conferences. Tourism and business visitors are the ones that are going to keep that accommodation busy through the year. But conferences are great business and that helps drive employment and provides extra opportunities for the district.”Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill told the Otago Daily Times conferences were an untapped market for the growing tourism trade in North Otago.
“We hear from a lot of people that organisations, professional bodies and the like are looking for locations where they haven’t been _ Oamaru fits that.” “[Waitaki] is a compact district, it offers a lot of opportunities that other places just don’t have and for the most part it hasn’t been a venue for conferences.
“It’s definitely an area that has not been fully developed in the past, but we are taking advantage of the opportunities now.”