Precinct planning under way

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A collaborative project between Tourism Waitaki and the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust (OWCT) to boost tourism in Oamaru’s Victorian Precinct may be developed in the next six months.
In September, the Government announced it would invest $290,000 in the development of a heritage centre and trial in the precinct, one of five areas nationwide the Government was investing in to grow tourism.
At the time of the announcement, the project was set to include an IT-rich themed centre and live streetscape, with demonstrations, penny-farthing experiences and artisan and interactive Victorian-era activities giving visitors a taste of colonial Oamaru.
The heritage centre will probably be developed in the Neil Bros store, by the Loan and Merc in Harbour St.
In Tourism Waitaki’s half-yearly report, which was presented to councillors at a full Waitaki District Council meeting on Wednesday, general manager Jason Gaskill said negotiations on milestones and final contract arrangements with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which must approve the project before it can take place, were continuing.
Tourism Waitaki was also seeking indications of interest from “creative and fit-out service providers”.
“It’s obviously no secret we’re working with them [OWCT] on a tourism building project that recently received government funding.
“It’s really about establishing a ticketed tourism product down at the precinct that will act as a driver and hopefully keep them [tourists] down there for longer.”If approved, the development could be operational by October 2017.
Meanwhile, work to develop the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony is set to begin in the final quarter of this year and be completed by spring.
The work will involve an upgrade of the colony’s car parking area, research facilities and reception area, and there will be a focus on interactive facilities.
The Oamaru I-Site is also set to undergo a facelift.
Mr Gaskill said work to improve cosmetic aspects of the building would be “minor”. Work would also take place at Tourism Waitaki’s satellite office in Palmerston.
Tourism Waitaki has forecast an operating deficit of $23,030 for the 2015-16 financial year, which Mr Gaskill said was due to expected investment in staff training to cover operational growth at the colony and I-Site.