Hawke's Bay ratepayers should not have to choose between funding for environmental protection, or the tourism industry, says a business which utilises both.
There has been outcry about the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's proposed cut of $1.6 million over three years to Hawke's Bay Tourism funding in its Long Term Plan 2018-2028. This proposes a 13 per cent rate rise for environmental priorities.
Tourism and the environment are both key to Napier Maori Tours, which was started by Hinewai Hawaikirangi and Cam Ormsby late last year.
Heralded as Napier's only Eco-Cultural Tours, it aims to "fuse Maori culture with our love for the natural environment".
"Our manuhiri [tour guests] share in our beautiful natural environment where we bring our local Maori history, culture, and the environment to life in our korero."
Ms Hawaikirangi said they also diverted profits to go toward implementing environmental sustainability actions, to show how tourism operators can give back.
The business is supportive of the council's environmental projects, and of the proposal to direct special rates to environmental protection and rehabilitation.
But Ms Hawaikirangi said the partners did not understand why funding could not go toward both tourism and the environment.
With a 19 per cent rate rise in the first year of the plan, she said, the rate reduction of 1.6 per cent through the tourism funding cut would not make much of a difference.
"Our korero to the HBRC is that the funding of Hawke's Bay Tourism isn't an 'either, or' korero, whereby to fund the initiatives to protect environment is at the expense of Hawke's Bay Tourism.
"The korero is 'and, and' where the support for Hawke's Bay Tourism is a show of support for sustainable businesses like Napier Maori Tours."
Despite starting the business only last year, she said the firm had already benefited immensely and relied heavily on the support of Hawke's Bay Tourism and its team was "key to the future growth of our fledgling business".
"The HBRC's proposed cut in funding of Hawke's Bay Tourism is a significant blow that will threaten the growth and sustainability of tourism in the Bay", they said.
Yesterday regional council chair Rex Graham reiterated comments that the majority of councillors felt it was time for the tourism agency to stand on its own.
He also disagreed with it being an "either, or" situation between funding for tourism and the environment, as the agency had been funded through the regional economic development targeted rate.
The council was asking for a "substantial" rate increase, and while the 1.6 per cent reduction might not seem much to some, "for someone who's unemployed or on a fixed income, it all counts".
"Our job is to balance it and try find the ground which everyone can live with," he said.
"We've got people in Flaxmere saying this is going to be tough. I think finding a balance is what our responsibility is."