Development West Coast (DWC) has recently undertaken a review of its new destination management function and tourism function to ensure they are best placed to take the region forward in the post COVID-19 landscape.

“The review looked at the current and future requirements of destination management and tourism and how we can best set our region up for success. As a result, there will be a new structure in place at the end of June,” said Jo Birnie, DWC Economic Development Manager.

Patrick Dault (current Destination Development Manager) will become DWC’s Destination and Tourism Manager; Louise Woodburn will have a change of title from MICE Executive to Business Events Executive to align with the sector, however the position will not change.

There will be two new positions:

Consumer Insights Executive - Responsible for marketing and advertising. To lead in attracting consumers from NZ and all over the world. Engaging with existing visitors in the market and after they depart. Responsible for driving content development, joint venture campaigns with operators and partners.

Commercial Tourism Executive - Responsible for enabling trade and distribution. Helping businesses understand what domestic, wholesale and international markets are looking for. This person’s ultimate role will be to ensure market readiness and that operators are up to scratch with expectations from distribution.   

The current Regional Tourism Manager position will be disestablished when Jim Little moves on at the end of July.

“Jim has represented the West Coast since January 2012 which has resulted in the West Coast being recognised for its contribution to tourism. Jim’s achievements include the creation and implementation of the Untamed Natural Wilderness brand, working with NZTA and TNZ gazetting the Great Coast Road and Glacier Highway as recognised touring routes, and representing the Regional Tourism Organisation as a finalist in the TIA awards three years in a row and winning twice,”

“We would like to thank Jim for his contribution to tourism on the West Coast and wish him well in his future endeavours,” said Ms. Birnie.


Media release 1 April 2021

Development West Coast (DWC) trustees have approved a $5 million Glacier Country Business Support Fund (GCBSF) in response to the current crisis in Franz Josef, Fox Glacier and the surrounding settlements.

“Glacier Country has been one of the hardest hit areas in New Zealand from the pandemic, with many businesses in desperate need of cashflow support to survive,” DWC chief executive Heath Milne said.

Following a meeting between the co-chairs of Glacier Country Tourism Group (GCTG), Westland District Council and DWC a survey was undertaken to better understand the impact COVID-19 is having on the area.

The survey revealed: 62 percent of jobs had been lost in Glacier Country, 16 percent of businesses had closed, at least 23 percent of people had left, and the area had experienced significant losses of volunteers in key community services.

Based on the survey responses it is forecast that in the next six months, if there is no additional support, 84% of jobs will be lost, 67% of businesses will be closed, and at least 31% of people will leave the community.

“The survey results made very sober reading,” Mr Milne said. “The situation has gone far beyond just businesses hurting - this is about the social fabric of the area. The community down there will not survive unless there is urgent support.”

“We understand there are businesses across the West Coast that have been hard hit by COVID-19. What makes the situation in Glacier Country unique and in urgent need of targeted support is the impact it is having on the wider community, not just on businesses.”

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash recently stated the Government is working on a support package targeted at areas such as Glacier Country which have traditionally been heavily reliant on international visitors. However, details on what that support will look like and when it will be available have yet to be announced.

Mr Milne welcomes news of a potential Government support package and acknowledges the various forms of assistance that have been provided to businesses to date.

“We are now a year into the pandemic and many businesses, through no fault of their own, are on a knife-edge. Glacier Country businesses have been loud and clear, they need cashflow support now to be able to survive until the trans-Tasman bubble opens,” said Mr Milne.

The Glacier Country Tourism Group has consulted with the wider community to get input on the best way to utilise DWC’s funding to the benefit of the whole Glacier Country area. Based on this consultation, DWC trustees have approved a $5 million fund for West Coast enterprises located between Whataroa and Lake Moeraki.

Under the GCBSF a maximum of $50,000 will be offered to eligible businesses through cashflow support. Applications for the assistance will open on 1 April and close at 10am on 12 April 2021.

“The $5m Glacier Country Business Support Fund is a significant initiative that will help many businesses in our region to access additional funds to help them to survive,” said Rob Jewell and Richard Benton, co-chairs of Glacier Country Tourism Group.

“We urgently need our borders to safely re-open to overseas visitors and we are all looking forward to the time when the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on our local business community has diminished.”

 For more information contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Media Release: 29 March 2021

The establishment of new digital hubs in Greymouth and South Westland will improve opportunities for using the internet to boost productivity, creativity and well-being.

Each digital hub is backed by $400,000 in Government funding over the next five years, administered through the Provincial Development Unit. DWC is investing a further $125,000 to each hub over the same period.

DWC project manager Helen Wilson said the two hubs operate in different ways.

The Westland hub, known as Te Wheke, is based at the Fox Glacier Community Centre but is also able to travel to other communities in South Westland to offer training and digital services. It is managed Destination Westland Ltd.

“Byte Māwhera Digital Hub will be permanently located in premises in Greymouth’s Guinness Street and offer wireless ultra-fast broadband, co-working spaces, hot-desking, private office space and a small meeting room for hire as part of its services,” Ms. Wilson said.

“The main space is designed for training and capability building sessions and the whole hub will be managed by Techspace.”

“These two new hubs are the latest in a growing network of digital hubs in rural areas in New Zealand, supported by the Government's Provincial Development Unit.” Ms. Wilson said.

Te Wheke

Te Wheke Outreach Digital Hub

GorseBusters banner

Hundreds of volunteers offer support

Volunteers from all over New Zealand have signed up to clear gorse from around the edges of Okarito Lagoon next week.

In a year with little business, Baz Hughes and Gemma van Beek of Okarito Kayaks decided to do something positive with their time in their backyard. 

“The aim was a small project pushing back against the gradual spread of gorse and weeds around the stunning Okarito Lagoon - just a few mates and some local volunteers. It got away on us a bit though; we’ve created a monster,” Baz joked.

After gaining national media attention GorseBusters has received hundreds of offers of support from all over the country, from as far north as Auckland and as far south as Southland and Dunedin.

Okarito is usually home to a resident population of around 38 people. GorseBusters will see this number swell, with volunteers coming to the small hamlet to help out clearing gorse.

Given all the interest, the initiative has been scaled up to be able to support about 75 people working over the six days - accommodating them, feeding them, equipping and leading them.

“It’s a real community effort, the whole South Westland community has gotten behind it,” said Baz.

“Support has come from so many places and businesses. The Franz Josef Four Square and New World Hokitika supermarkets have been fantastic; Westland Milk Products and Silver Fern Farms have also been really generous keeping us fuelled.

“We have received so many other offers of support both locally and nationally, such as from Okarito Sandfly Repellent, West Coast Print to Baby-E website design. There are too many to list.

“Thank you so much for all the support, large and small. Every bit of help we’ve been offered has enabled us to expand the project, and to do more for the volunteers helping out,” said Baz.

“We’re very fortunate to be where we are, in this country and in particular on the West Coast; we’ll be very proud if the rest of New Zealand can see how we can look after our backyard.”

The Okarito GorseBusters initiative will run from March 22 to 27.

For more information see:

GorseBusters Okarito Kayaks

The West Coast stretches over 600km from Karamea to Haast - similar in distance as Auckland to Wellington.

Being spread over such a vast area, our region has extremely diverse landscapes – from the Nikau palm covered beaches up north to the glaciers down south. This diversity is also reflected in our economy and how each of our districts have been impacted by the pandemic.

Infometrics’ GDP figures for the December quarter show we are currently a region of extremes, with the Buller District leading New Zealand in economic growth, while Westland is the hardest hit district in the country (equal with Mackenzie District).

For the December 2020 quarter, West Coast GDP fell by 1.7%, compared to a 0.2% increase nationally. Buller’s GDP grew by 7.5%, Grey’s fell by 1.2% and Westland experienced a drop of 11.4%.

Buller’s growth has largely been on the back of strong primary industries - dairy farming and mining. It has also bucked the trend with an increase in tourism spending. For the year to December 2020, Buller had a 4.6% rise in visitor expenditure.

At the other end of our region, the experience has been vastly different. Visitor spending in Westland has fallen by 28.4%, due to the impact border closures are having on the previously thriving Glacier Country region.

Given the devastating impact COVID-19 is having, DWC trustees have committed $5m towards a package to help protect the social and economic fabric of Glacier Country.

It is an incredibly difficult time for those affected, so we are grateful for the support the national media has given by shining a spotlight on the situation and giving voice to those in the communities.

On Thursday, there was a welcome announcement by Minister Kiri Allan of a $45m Predator Free project in South Westland. This project is expected to create over 50 jobs in the area over five years.

Last week it was also announced that the Provincial Development Unit has granted Buller District Council $2 million to get the Kawatiri whitebait project up and running with commercial partner New Zealand Whitebait. The $7m project aims to produce up to 100 tonnes of whitebait a year and is expected to employ more than 30 people.

The Greymouth Port is also enjoying significant investment, with $7m allocated for dredging, new wharves, and an expanded slipway and the $17.9m Pounamu Pathway project is under development.

Despite the current challenges, things are happening. There are exciting developments taking place across our diverse region, which will create opportunities and help build further resilience into our economy.

Glacier country breakfast

The Glacier Country community gathers to host John Campbell from TVNZ Breakfast.