Tourism main job opportunity for West Coast

By Lee Scanlon -
The Coast needed to attract more domestic visitors, the report said. (Pictured, The wharf at Jackson Bay, West Coast.) Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Coast needed to attract more domestic visitors, the report said. (Pictured, The wharf at Jackson Bay, West Coast.) Photo / Mark Mitchell

Tourism is the West Coast's major immediate opportunity for jobs, says the Tai Poutini West Coast Regional Growth Study.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce and Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy today released the detailed report on the Coast's economy.

The Coast needed to attract more domestic visitors, the report said. The region must develop more iconic attractions and products and commercialise more tourism experiences.

Effective road and telecommunications networks were vital. The Coast needed more investment in roads, ultra-fast broadband and mobile coverage to underpin tourism growth, information communication technology (ICT) and health services and support the recovery of mineral and dairy industries.

Coal was unlikely to be as significant again. Gold continued to be the mainstay and a range of other minerals had real development potential.

Niche sectors, although small scale, could provide many job opportunities together. They included EPIC Westport, native wood processing, horticulture and food beverage entrepreneurs.

A sustainable wild whitebait fishery could be developed, to develop, restore, monitor and protect more spawning sites.

There was potential to grow international education services, focused on outdoor recreation, environmental management and eco-tourism.

The report said improved policies and regulatory processes could encourage investment.

It suggested more productive use of low-value stewardship land on the conservation estate, allowing user charges for experiences on conservation land, and simplifying consent processes.

Three proposals could have a big impact on jobs and economic development in the region, but they needed feasibility studies and business cases. They were:

• A waste to energy facility in Buller;

• the Haast to Hollyford road;

• The Wangapeka road link.

New economic development processes were needed. Development West Coast's investment approach and priorities needed to be clarified and aligned with the outcomes of the study and action plan.

The two West Coast runanga, Ngati Waewae and Ngai Tahu could play an important role in supporting growth, the report said.

Joyce said the study was a unique opportunity for the local community and business leaders to work alongside central government and commit to an action plan.

"Key to encouraging growth on the West Coast will be building resilience and certainty around infrastructure, so that when markets for the main local industries improve, the region is in a better position to take advantage of favourable conditions. Ensuring high quality road and telecommunications networks will help the region to reduce the disadvantages it faces due to its distance from markets.

"At the same time, the region can look to diversify its economy, not only by building on new and emerging opportunities, but by extracting more value from key industries."

Joyce said tourism was one area where the West Coast was thriving, mainly driven by international visitor spending in Westland. Tourism provided the major immediate opportunity in the region.

"With the West Coast's stunning natural setting and cultural history, there is a great deal of potential to attract more domestic visitors, commercialise more experiences and develop a stronger set of iconic attractions and products that encourages visitors to travel across the region and stay longer."

He said there was potential to grow international education services in outdoor recreation and environmental management.

"In fact, demand for experiential leadership courses in these areas currently exceeds supply. EPIC Westport is also proving that the region can attract and grow ICT enterprises."

Guy said key industries like dairy were likely to remain the mainstay of the West Coast economy, but the region could build on a range of small-scale niche sectors to collectively offer many possibilities for job growth.

"There are several horticulture and food and beverage entrepreneurs exporting products like meat products, cranberries, blueberries, honey and vegetables. Aquaculture is another primary industry that could be developed should feasibility of salmon farming in the region be established," Guy said.

"The indigenous wood processing industry had also shown it could create value and jobs through the careful extraction of windblown timber."

An economic action plan for the West Coast, informed by the regional growth study, will be released in early 2017.

- Westport News

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