New GM announced in Tourism Waitaki restructure

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In a reshaped organisation, Jason Gaskill has been appointed as the new general manager for Tourism Waitaki.

The general manager will oversee the operations of Tourism Waitaki, Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony, Oamaru i-SITE and Alps 2 Ocean. Mr Gaskill will move internally from the Penguin Colony manager to the general manager role.

Tourism Waitaki chairwoman Annabel Berry said Mr Gaskill brought “excellent tourism and strategic business management experience” to the role.

“He has sound leadership skills combined with the ability to drive new tourism product like the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail to the next stage,” Mrs Berry said.

Yesterday was his first day in the role, and he said he was looking forward to taking on the new challenge in an exciting time for the Waitaki District.

“I think the District is in a really, really good position. There is a lot happening in Oamaru, up the Valley and down to Palmerston,” he said.

“The people who are coming through here seem to enjoy what they see and experience.”

He said the mix of activities and attractions in the Waitaki District was quite unique.

“There’s literally, in this tight, compact little space, everything that you could want to see in New Zealand, and particularly in the South Island,” he said.

“It’s amazing what’s there and the operators and the things that they’re doing and the ideas that people in the community have and the business ventures that people are starting to put in.”

To be in a position where he could, to a certain extent, influence that was “quite exciting”, he said.

Mr Gaskill has been living in Oamaru for close to five years, coming from Milton to take up the position of Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony manager.

“We’ve settled in here and don’t plan on going anywhere,” he said.

Looking ahead, there were a lot of projects on the cards, with Alps 2 Ocean the largest development on the scale.

But it was in no way the only focus of Tourism Waitaki, he said, citing numerous opportunities that would pop up in the next six to 12 months.

“Alps 2 Ocean is big, but by no means the only development that is going on which is quite exciting,” he said.

His vision is to have Oamaru and the Waitaki District as a “household name”.

“Where travellers just know that there is this really cool place in the South Island of New Zealand that you get to see everything from steampunk to penny farthings to natural wildlife to working sheep farms up the Valley to hot tubs,” he said.

“We’re not a smaller version of anywhere else – we’re the Waitaki.”

Marketing for all Tourism Waitaki units will now be centralised and a new role of marketing manager has been created to manage the marketing team and oversee promotions, media and trade. Megan Howell has been promoted to that role for the organisation.

“It was a natural step for Megan to be promoted to the role of marketing manager,” Mrs Berry said.

“Her knowledge of the tourism industry and passion for the district combined with excellent interpersonal skills is a winning combination for this role.”

The new organisation will also see retail and operations for all units centralised to one role for greater efficiencies and this role will be appointed later in the month.

“The [Waitaki Tourism] Board have taken a proactive approach to change the structure in response to a drop in funding over the past five years, changes in the tourism industry, and the need to be more efficient and drive revenue to reduce costs to the ratepayer,” Mrs Berry said.

“We have created a structure that is leaner and more efficient to ensure a sustainable future for the units and reduce ratepayer reliance over time.”

Waitaki District Mayor Alex Familton said Tourism Waitaki had responded to present negative economic demands, by proactively reviewing their structures and management.

“Council strongly supports this realistic response which has the potential to reduce costs to the community and bring a new and productive direction to the tourism sector,” he said.

Oamaru i-SITE manager Tania Pacey has elected to not apply for any new role in the new structure or look at redeployment and will finish at the i-SITE on August 9.

“It is with regret that Tania will not be part of the team going forward as we move in a new direction, she has been an integral part of team over the past 13 years and we support her in her decision to look at other opportunities,” Mrs Berry said.

Key projects that the new look team at Tourism Waitaki will be working on over the next few months include developing revenue streams for Alps 2 Ocean, continuing to develop the day tour experience at the Penguin Colony and promoting the District and businesses in key marketing and promotional material.

“We’re looking at better harnessing the skill sets that are here and putting them into positions to better serve the wider district and we think the structure as it stands now will deliver that,” Mr Gaskill said.

By Rebecca Ryan