A plea for financial support to boost the Waikato hospitality sector has been knocked back by Hamilton's mayor saying there is more pressing issues to deal.
Last week Waikato Food Inc put out a plea for support from the region, saying that local leaders offered their support at a food forum last year but nothing had come to fruition.
However, Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate said in a statement to the Waikato News that she finds it unlikely that Hamilton ratepayers would respond kindly to see their money spent on promoting food businesses.
"I know it's tough. Council is under financial pressure itself. But personally, I don't think it's likely Hamilton ratepayers would be happy to see council funding the promotion of local food businesses ahead of many, many other worthy businesses which are also struggling because of Covid, and which have no exposure at all to wider tourism marketing," Southgate said.
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.
The organisation runs events such as the Waikato's best cheese toastie challenge and the Matariki Dish challenge, and last year held a food forum, which Southgate took part in to garner support and ideas for the region's food sector.
Southgate said Waikato Food Inc needs to find partners both in local government and the private sector before they can hope to specifically market the hospitality sector.
"As you know, Hamilton is one of seven councils which fund Hamilton-Waikato Tourism. HWT's job is to promote Hamilton and the whole region. Ratepayer funding is not used to promote individual operators or an individual sector. It's used to encourage visitors to come to our city and region in the first place. Obviously the hospitality sector benefits from that," she said.
"On top of that funding, HWT have industry partners who pay to be part of their promotional activities via targeted marketing campaigns. Hospitality businesses can be part of that if they want to. That's up to them."
Last week, founder of Waikato Food Inc Vicki Ravlich-Horan said Wellington was a prime example of how local government and tourism board can work together to support the hospitality sector with their 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," Ravlich-Horan said.
"We are saying, give us some funding and some support and we can highlight just how good our hospitality sector is."
Southgate said Hamilton City Council will be taking a long, hard look at its budget for the coming year to make sure every dollar the city spends helps the city rebuild from Covid.
They will be asking the community to comment on that budget.
"If Waikato Food Inc has a specific proposal to put forward, I look forward to seeing it so councillors can weigh it up alongside everything else. As you can imagine, everyone wants help right now and we need to target it where it is needed most."