Darien Fenton, our Tourism spokesperson, and I were given a guided tour of The Coach House Museum in Feilding yesterday, together with a discussion of tourism and the regions. Paul Gibson from the museum, and Dean Manley and Denise Andrews from the Feilding Information Centre, were very generous with their time and knowledge.
When it comes to tourism in the regions, then it’s putting together a package of activities that matters. Plenty of people are keen to get off the Auckland / Rotorua / Taupo route, and tour through regional areas and rural towns. It’s often just a matter of letting them know what can be done. Dean Manley had some interesting suggestions about how central government could help, from helping to develop apps onto which regions and towns could load information, to helping with developing capability. He saw it as a matter of providing co-ordination, rather than just piling money in.
And it would make a difference. Tourism jobs are often low paid, but they are better than no jobs. Then there’s the money that tourists spend in small towns, buying food and going to cafes and other attractions, all helping to support work for people living in the towns.
I took Darien to see the NZ Motor Caravan Association Park in Marton. I find this organisation fascinating. Groups of people who enjoy motorhome tourism will travel from place to place, camping over in some places, and in others, staying at campgrounds and parks owned by the association. Like other tourists, they bring money into small towns. It’s just a matter of attracting them. Marton has been quite fortunate in this regard: the NZMCA owns a park there, and it’s often full of motorhomes, each of them bring an economic benefit to the town.
As for The Coach House Museum in Feilding, it’s a delight! There’s plenty to see there, all well organised and well cared for. It’s a very professionally run museum, with a commitment to local history, and to a broader history of transport and farming machinery in New Zealand. I recommend it.