Ideas such as a food show floating down the Waikato River, and pop-up markets around the world displaying the very best food products of the Waikato may now never see the light of day after Waikato Food Inc has said it lacks promised support from local government and leaders.

At a food forum last year to galvanise the Waikato food industry, support was promised to boost the sector.

With the Waikato hospitality and food sector now key to restarting the local economy, the region's top food organisation is calling on local government and leaders to put their money where their mouth is.

"We are saying, give us some funding and some support and we can highlight just how good our hospitality sector is," says founder of Waikato Food Inc Vicki Ravlich-Horan
This year Waikato Food Inc had hoped to hire a full-time manager to lead its operation, as currently the organisation is run by volunteers, who also own and run hospitality businesses.

Advertisement

"Those plans are dead in the water right now due to the impact of Covid-19, but it was even before that, we had the food forum last year and there was a whole lot of support for us from local leaders and yet nothing has happened."

Waikato Food Inc was established in 2013 as a not-for-profit member-based organisation with goals of promoting and growing food and hospitality businesses in the Waikato.
Ravlich-Horan says that there needs to be more than local leaders telling residents to support local.

Vicki Ravlich-Horan wants support from local leaders to promote the Waikato's food sector. Photo / Supplied
Vicki Ravlich-Horan wants support from local leaders to promote the Waikato's food sector. Photo / Supplied

"About 75 per cent of Waikato tourism is [from the] domestic market so that group is all from within New Zealand, yet there doesn't seem to be much in terms of pitching to local tourists, and the Waikato is placed so that people generally need to drive through us to get to somewhere, so we have lots of people visiting our region.

"Leave Hamilton and Waikato Tourism to focus on just tourism, and give us the chance to highlight our sector. We have our finger on the pulse, and the connections, and we know how to market and help them grow.

"We are here to help them, we can come up with great events and stories and promote them."

Ravlich-Horan says Wellington has a prime example of how sectors and local government working together can promote the hospitality sector with its platform "Wellington on a plate".

The platform has more than a hundred listings of restaurants and cafes in the city filled with local stories and events.

"That was started by their council and tourism boards; they were proactive and looked at how they could highlight the sector. It was all about spending money in Wellington and highlighting the city to its locals."

Advertisement

Waikato Food Inc started to gain traction in the public light last year with events such as the Meyer Cheese Melt Challenge and the Matariki Dish Challenge.

"These are events that we are putting on and that have been hugely popular. The Waikato is such a strong market for food and hospitality, we just need to start promoting it better and we need support to do that."