Te Puke pushes for food focus (+poll)

By John Cousins


Frustrated Te Puke tourist operators want to break away from Tourism Bay of Plenty and do their own international promotion of the area's "super foods".

Kiwifruit 360 managing director Graeme Crossman said the image being promoted to the world of the beach, sea and harbour was not unique.

"Every province in New Zealand has coastal attractions that are world class," he told the Western Bay District Council.

Mr Crossman is a member of Te Puke's Economic Development Group that wants the council to withdraw $55,000 of its $170,000 funding of Tourism BOP to directly fund the promotion of Te Puke tourism ventures. "We have got to do it ourselves because it is not getting the sort of emphasis that we need."

He said international tourists did not come to the Western Bay to go to the beaches. "Asian visitors avoid the sea."

Mr Crossman criticised the "old model" of regional tourism organisations where a lot of money was chewed up by administration and not enough spent to attract tourists. He produced statistics for the March 31 year that showed the Western Bay had the biggest decline in domestic and international visitors staying in commercial accommodation compared with the rest of New Zealand.

Overall visitor nights were down 13 per cent on the previous 12 months, with international nights down 18 per cent. "We are being saved by cruise ships."

Tourism BOP general manager Rhys Arrowsmith said the organisation had no comment until the council had officially responded to the submission from Te Puke Economic Development Group. The council will begin making decisions on submissions on June 10.

The group's managing director, Mark Boyle, told the council Tourism Bay of Plenty had failed to provide specific initiatives to help grow Te Puke's distinct "value proposition". He said Te Puke's combination of climate and soils allowed it to grow "super foods", with international brands such as Zespri and Comvita calling Te Puke home.

Kiwifruit and manuka honey were popular in many Asian markets and people would like to see where they came from.

Mr Boyle also raised the possibility the council's funding of Tourism BOP could be splintered further by proposals from Katch Katikati. The two towns wanted to market themselves with a brand that would appeal particularly to tourists from China - The Goodness Highway.

Katch Katikati was seeking an extra $46,000 from the council. Projects included restoration of the kauri logging industry in the Kaimai Forest Park, development of Katikati's cuisine food trail and better promotion of events and the town's history.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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