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Benefits for the district . . . Waitaki destination management strategy project manager Mel Jones (left) and Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro discuss options for the region. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

A new strategy to entice visitors to the Waitaki district is being developed.

Waitaki destination management strategy project manager and facilitator Mel Jones said the government funded several regional tourism organisations in New Zealand to put together a destination strategy and plan, and Waitaki was beginning with a strategy, which would lead to a plan at a later date.

Two groups – a governance and a working group – formed to paint a clear picture of what was needed.

About 15 people were in the governance group, chaired by Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, and were all involved in key agencies throughout the district, including tourism operators, members of the business community, iwi members and the Department of Conservation.

“It’s a good cross-section of stakeholders,” Mrs Jones said.

Up to 20 people were in the working group, chaired by Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro, and both groups would take part in a workshop on February 25.

The workshop was part of the data collecting phase and would identify key opportunities and issues for the district.

“What do our locals love about being here? It recognises that if locals love the place they live, that rubs off on to visitors and visitors have an amazing experience.”

It provided an opportunity to hear multiple voices in the community, including many new arrivals, she said.

“I’m picking up there’s a lot of skills and experience coming into the district and I think it’s a great opportunity to say ‘Hey, let’s get some fresh thinking around the table’.

“I think the time is right to pause and say ‘What sort of visitor economy do we want?’, ‘What sort of visitors do we want to come here?’, ‘What experiences do we want to offer them?’ and ‘What are we already doing that we are maybe not telling people about?’.”

The project would involve a lot of community engagement, and Mrs Jones was looking for “quick wins” along the way.

“We want people to feel like they are making a difference. I would really like to see … things we can put into place in the short term, but equally have a long-term vision.”Sports ShoesGifts for Runners