Consulting on new ways to support economic growth in Waitaki

Published on 28 March 2023


Waitaki District Council is proposing a new organisation to support economic growth in the district. This includes delivering the ambitions and outcomes identified in the Uplifting Waitaki: Hāpaitia te Waitaki Economic Development strategy adopted by Council in September 2022. The Council would like the community’s feedback on the proposals.

The Council is consulting on establishing a new Council Controlled Organisation as an Economic Development Agency (EDA). The EDA would be responsible for implementing the Strategy and working in partnership with others to support economic development that benefits the community. The new Agency would incorporate tourism management and promotion meaning Tourism Waitaki Ltd would be disestablished.

Waitaki District Council Chief Executive, Alex Parmley said, “Council has invested significantly in economic development and tourism for several years and whilst this has delivered benefits, we believe the activity could be delivering better value for ratepayers and more measurable benefits for our community. We believe an Economic Development Agency, with oversight of all key work programmes, is the best vehicle to enable stronger engagement with stakeholders and partners and to increase the benefits from these activities for our communities and district.”

Tourism Waitaki Ltd currently operates the Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony and leases the business premises from Council which owns the land. Council is recommending that partnership opportunities be investigated to grow the Penguin Colony as cornerstone attraction for the district, supporting increased spend with local businesses.

Tourism Waitaki Ltd chair, Mike McElhinney said, “Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony has led the way in New Zealand in developing a sustainable tourism experience that visitors love.  It supports conservation and protection of kororā / little blue penguins, scientific and educational programmes.”

“This success has enabled Tourism Waitaki to fund extensive programmes promoting the Waitaki both nationally and internationally and enabled Waitaki to maintain high levels of domestic visitation after the Covid shutdowns. International tourism has returned also.” Said Mr McElhinney.

Securing a partner with shared values who understands the important conservation, scientific and education work of the Penguin Colony and who might invest to grow the attraction will be beneficial for visitors, businesses, and the community, Mr Parmley said. He confirmed Council does not propose to sell the land on which the Ōamaru Blue Penguin Colony sits. “We recognise this land is environmentally significant and is a key asset which should remain with the Council on behalf of the community.” Concluded Mr Parmley.

Business Attraction & Recovery Manager, Melanie Jones said, “The new Economic Development Agency will bring business, iwi, and other stakeholders together with Council to manage the core workstreams collectively and ensure the target outcomes and benefits are achieved. Developing the Waitaki Story, that resonates with our community and visitors, will be a key deliverable that links all the workstreams.”

Council will be consulting with key stakeholders and the community between Thursday 6 April and Sunday 7 May 2023 around the proposed changes.