A Waitaki and Oamaru Visitor Centre incorporating the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Information Shop with district attractions promotion and resources will open in the former Oamaru i-Site in building in lower Thames Street this week.
Tourism Waitaki, the Waitaki District Council and Waitaki Whitestone Geopark Trust will jointly fund the facility until at least March or April next year (COVID-19 dependent).
The Centre will initially be operated by Tourism Waitaki five days a week during school terms (closed Tuesday and Wednesday) between 10am and 4pm. During New Zealand's national holidays it will operate seven days a week.
The Visitor Centre will offer district-wide and local information, including visitor guides and maps but would not be taking bookings on behalf of operators, General Manager of Tourism Waitaki Margaret Munro explained. Information on the geological sites and cultural histories associated with the Geopark has been relocated from the 'pop up shop' in Thames Street, and will be built up over time.
"Locally, it will complement the information available at Rose's General Store in the Historic Precinct", she said.
The i-Site was closed in June 2020 by Tourism Waitaki when it was forced to restructure because of the severe reduction in income generated by the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony due to COVID-19. The Information Centre at Omarama was also closed, and financial support for the Kurow Information Centre ceased.
"We are pleased to have been able to offer part-time roles to some former staff affected by the restructure," Ms Munro explained.
Financial support has been provided by the Waitaki District Council and the Whitestone Geopark Trust to enable the Centre to open. The Trust had recently closed its Thames Street "pop-up" centre and was currently relocating its information and displays into the Visitor Centre.
Mayor Gary Kircher said, "I'm pleased that a solution has been found to the issue of how we provide information to our visitors. This is an important service which we need to maximise the time people spend in Waitaki, enjoying many of the wonderful attractions we have on offer! I appreciate the work that has happened behind the scenes to make this happen."