Hawke's Bay's mayors have spoken out against a proposed funding cut to the agency charged with putting the region on the tourism map.
Yesterday the official consultation period began for the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Long Term Plan, called "Facing Our Future 2018-28". This includes a proposal to cut Hawke's Bay Tourism funding by $1.8 million over three years, meaning a rates reduction of 1.6 per cent.
There has been opposition to this from the tourism industry, and an outpouring of support for the agency, which has said reduced funding could mean job cuts, and the downsizing of annual events that contribute millions to the economy.
Yesterday Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said a funding cut to the Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) "could threaten this vital industry."
"The past model of Hastings and Napier doing their own thing with tourism and attracting visitors here hasn't worked. Now we have a [RTO], which receives funding from all councils in Hawke's Bay, and our tourism market is booming."
She said the tourism body was a success because of the collective efforts to support it.
"It has resulted in Hawke's Bay being recognised as the destination for visitors, which can be seen in the growth of many of our regional events and in the tourism sector itself."
Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said the proposal would be a retrograde move.
"Since we've had increased funding into [Hawke's Bay Tourism] we've fought above our weight in this area. You can't take that level of funding out of tourism and expect it not to have an affect," he said.
Funding through the regional council's targeted economic development rate allowed Hawke's Bay Tourism to focus on its role, rather than looking for money.
Changing this would then be "an incredibly backwards step for Hawke's Bay, it will require the experts who should be promoting Hawke's Bay to become professional fundraisers".
As new opportunities arose for Wairoa - particularly Rocket Lab - the district's Mayor Craig Little said they had the most to gain from tourism, and the most to lose if the funding was cut.
"There's some good work happening and we're a little bit concerned. Cutting something like that back, there's no logic to it whatsoever."
HBRC chairman Rex Graham said the council believed Hawke's Bay Tourism had exceeded expectation's since its 2015 funding boost, "but there's a majority of councillors who believe that tourism has had a really good run, but that we don't fund promotion for other industries".
"This is a business. They should stand on their own feet."
He said council proposed halving the funding over three years to give the agency time to seek assistance from the commercial sector and businesses that directly benefited from promotion of the region.
He added under the LTP the council were also proposing to take on the regional rates for Civil Defence.
Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker did not respond to requests for comment.
Yesterday Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas said if their funding was cut, staffing levels would need to be looked at in the coming years, and events like F.A.W.C! might have to be downsized.
"We won't be able to market year round, we'll have to drop portions of the year and if some of those portions include events then we'd have to have a good look at that as well."
Dundas said she was pleased to see the support shown through an online petition, and encouraged people to make their voices heard during the consultation period by making submissions to council.
"It's a pretty big issue, we do want the community to come out and tell the council what they think about the changes."
More than 500 people have signed a petition started by a Hawke's Bay resident on change.org asking for the current level of funding to be maintained.