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Fix-up job . . . A car park opposite the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is to be upgraded by the Waitaki District Council. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

A large gravel car parking area opposite the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony will be upgraded by the Waitaki District Council if it is able to secure Government funding for the planned project.

The council has applied to the September round of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund to help pay for the project, which Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said would cost about $300,000.

It was hoped more than half of that figure would be subsidised by the Government.

Mr Kircher said the decision to apply for funds for the project was made at the last minute, and added to a $60,000 application to fund a feasibility study into tourism infrastructure requirements, such as toilets and dump stations, in Omarama, Otematata, Campbell’s Bay and Palmerston.

“We’ve added in an application .. to do a redevelopment of the area around the blue penguin colony to tidy up that area, seal and mark the car park and make sure it’s an area at a suitable standard for our locals and visitors.”

The condition of the car park had been criticised in the past, which Mr Kircher believed was warranted.

He said it was “not a great advertisement” for the area and needed to be upgraded sooner rather than later.

“It can be used now as it is, but we want to lift the standard and make sure we’re meeting expectations that visitors and locals have when they come to our area.”

Mr Kircher was hopeful the majority of the project would be externally funded with the balance to come from the council’s coffers.

“A lot of projects are [funded] 50/50, but we’re asking for a higher proportion for this one, on the basis that it really is around tourism demand.

“There’s a number of possibilities as to how we fund it. The default position would be we loan-fund it against the harbour activity so it would be repaid over a reasonable period of time through rates.”

There is no timeline for the project as yet.

Meanwhile, Mr Kircher said a feasibility study into infrastructure neededdue to the growing number of tourists in the district was essential, and was the first step of a long-term plan.

“We’re looking at some toilets, which are largely on the back of tourism demand, and it also includes the likes of Palmerston, looking at a dump station for caravan waste.

“Essentially, this is to get the funding to help us do the work behind it, because there’s never an easy, cookie-cutter solution for these things. It’s a matter of sorting out things like land ownership and the type of toilet that’s going to suit best.”

The council would then apply to the fund again to carry out the physical works, Mr Kircher said.