New visitor centre keeping local

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Visitors to the Waitaki district will no longer have to search high and low for information on the area.

A new Waitaki and Oamaru visitor centre, incorporating the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark shop, opened this week in the former iSite building in Thames St.

It is being jointly funded by Tourism Waitaki, the Waitaki District Council and the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust until at least March or April next year.

Tourism Waitaki closed the former Oamaru iSite in June, under a restructure amid the Covid-19 crisis.

The new visitor centre would have information and visitor guides, but would not take bookings for operators, Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro said.

“We are trying to make it cost-effective,” Mrs Munro said.

“We appreciate it’s a needed service, but a cost comes with it and there are very few information centres or iSites that can sustain themselves financially.”

It was a “scaled-back” version of the former iSite, she said.

“We’re just going to keep it local. We’re going to contact operators in district; we’ve got plenty of rack space for them to put in local information.

“We hope to help visitors to where they want to go and give them information.”

Information on the geological sites and cultural histories associated with the geopark had been relocated from the pop-up shop in Thames St, and would be built up over time, Mrs Munro said.

Including the geopark at the new facility was an opportunity to lift its profile, she said.

“Because, really, the geopark is the foundation of all the offerings we have in the region.”

Two part-time staff members, affected by the restructure earlier in the year, would return, along with new casual staff.

able to offer part-time roles to some former staff affected by the

restructure,

“They are coming back with the knowledge, which is a big advantage.”

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said the centre was an “important service, which we need, to maximise the time people spend in Waitaki”.

“I’m pleased that a solution has been found to the issue of how we provide information to our visitors,” Mr Kircher said.

“I appreciate the work that has happened behind the scenes to make this happen.”

The new centre was intended to serve visitors during the summer period.

“We are all hopeful that there will be a good number of families doing road trips over the summer break,” Mrs Munro said.

She wanted to see all businesses become a source of visitor information to help promote the district.

“We all have a responsibility as business people to engage with visitors and help them,” she said.

“If we can do that as the wider community it will reinforce this is a special destination because visitors will feel supported.

  • The centre will be open 10am to 4pm, Wednesday to Monday, during school term and would extend to seven days during the holidays.