Tourism as an industry has matured. Vineyards have moved from being producers of wine into sophisticated wine and food destinations. As such they have been the catalyst for another booming industry, weddings.
Years of marketing to an international audience by individual wineries has had a huge boost in the last four years from the work of ATEED, Auckland Council’s tourism and economic development arm. This dedicated team has had the resources to market Auckland and the Hauraki Gulf Islands to a much bigger international market. It is one of the unsung benefits of the supercity.
Increased numbers of visitors means there is probably room for competition on the ferries. New ferry services, if they survive, will themselves increase capacity to bring increasing numbers of visitors to the island. New businesses are springing up all the time to transport the visitors around the island. At times last weekend there were three ferries docking at Matiatia and twelve buses and coaches jostling for position to take them to destinations around the island. Accommodation is at a premium as some tourists extend their visits beyond a single day.
Local jobs in tourism are abundant, so much so that migrant workers are increasingly filling the gaps.
The only fly in the ointment is infrastructure. While there has been heavy investment by private individuals and companies in their own facilities this has not been matched by investment in Council infrastructure. Roads need more maintenance, not less. The Matiatia transport hub is busier than Auckland airport at times. It has been in urgent need of an overhaul for the last ten years and is now at crisis point.
Stories of passengers being left stranded outside the wharf building, like this in today’s Herald, do nothing to enhance the island’s image.
It is well known throughout Auckland Council and Waiheke that the WLB is anti-tourism. It is also anti infrastructure investment of the sort needed to ensure the island delivers on the promises made to international tourists that this is a world class visitor destination. Many infrastructure projects that were already in train have been stopped by this Board. The upgrade to the Matiatia wharf building being just one example.
The only vision of the Board is to take the island back to the 1980s before all these nasty tourists, and most residents, arrived here. How can the Mayor and Council justify investment in the island when they are aware that it is not only Meeuwsen who wants to de-amalgamate, but the Board itself even though they are not saying so outright just yet. Why should they continue to invest in Waiheke which is already a drain on their resources?
If the Green Taliban rabble, all supporters of the Local Board, who harangued the Mayor last Saturday had been listening they would have heard him say that for every $1 dollar collected in rates from Waiheke the Council spends $1.70 on the island. Waiheke benefits from economies of scale more than any other local board area except Great Barrier. Yet you don’t hear Orakei Local Board for example whose ratepayers only receive 10 cents of Council services out of every $1 dollar they pay calling for de-amalgamation.
Sadly, this unnecessary diversion from the real business of the local board will ensure the much needed investment in infrastructure isn’t forthcoming any time soon.
We all know de-amalgamation is a tactic to draw attention away from the disastrous performance of this local board. They have managed to lose the island $12 million of investment in its first year alone and $5 million a year from here on because its members are incapable of managing the resources and budgets that were already in place.
With economic illiterates like these in charge try and imagine the shambles that would ensue if they tried to run the island. The flood of tourists would not stop. They would still get to their beautiful vineyard destinations but they would have to get there on bicycles on third world roads, littered with rubbish because they had returned to having a third world rubbish dump knee deep in mud. Some vision, some Board.
Far more likely is that someone will propose an alternative to de-amalgamation such as complete integration with Auckland Council. Now that is a proposition that could really fly with the Local Government Commission. The Commission is concerned with the economies of scale that come from amalgamation because only that way can they achieve the purposes of the Local Government Act for councils “to facilitate improved economic performance”. This means productivity improvements for businesses and households must be cost efficient and effective.
The record of this Board is already against them in economic terms. In reality this is just another attempt to divert attention away from their woeful performance. They are a Board full of protest politicians. There is nothing they like better than marching, protesting, waving banners and their copies of the Gulf (Green Taliban) News. It would be amusing except that such antics threaten the tourism lifeblood of the island.