The West Coast economy is showing signs of bouncing back after taking a substantial hit during the COVID lockdown, but the path ahead remains uncertain.
According to the latest data from Infometrics, economic activity on the Coast for the September 2020 quarter was down just 0.4% compared to September 2019. The nation as a whole saw a decline of 3.2%.
The economic impact of COVID has been felt in vastly different ways across the region. Comparing the September 2020 quarter versus the September 2019 quarter, Buller District had the highest growth rate in New Zealand at 7.9%, while Grey District saw a decline of 3.6%. Westland District, which has been particularly hard hit by the loss of international visitors, experienced a 5.6% decrease in GDP.
A resurgence in domestic tourism has benefited the West Coast to a degree, particularly in Buller. MBIE’s regional tourism spending estimates show that domestic visitor spending on the West Coast was up by 54% ($26m) in the September quarter compared to last year. This nearly offset the loss of international visitors, who spent $27m in the region during the September 2019 quarter.
While it has been promising to see the West Coast lead New Zealand in growth for domestic visitor spend, we remain very cautious about the upcoming summer season.
International visitors spent $72m in the December 2019 quarter and $119m in the March 2019 quarter, so even if the extra domestic spend is sustained throughout summer, it will unlikely replace international visitor spending.
Our tourism team remains committed to driving visitor demand and will be running an extensive domestic campaign starting next week through to February.
For the year to September 2020, the number of Jobseeker support recipients has continued to rise, with an additional 408 recipients on the West Coast over the past year. This is a 17.7% increase, below the national rate of 27.3%.
While the number of Jobseeker support recipients is starting to fall, we cannot become complacent as the full extent of the economic shock of COVID is still to play out. It is vital we continue to support one another and leverage available opportunities.
We encourage any businesses impacted by COVID to contact the team at DWC, and for businesses to tap into the different employment and training initiatives that are currently available such as DWC’s Upskill programme, the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs, MSD’s Mana in Mahi and MBIE’s Regional Apprenticeships Initiative.
At DWC we are continuing to look at wider opportunities for the region. Alongside the West Coast Regional Council, Department of Conservation and Iwi, we have formed the Kotahitanga kit e Uru Regional Alliance.
The Alliance has been established to initiate, support and drive West Coast initiatives and secure central government funding to support the economic recovery and mitigate the social and economic impacts of COVID.
Heath Milne | DWC Chief Executive
As a result of the Strategic Tourism Asset Protection Fund, Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has funded two new positions at DWC.
Destination Development Manager – Patrick Dault.
Patrick joined DWC on Monday 12 October bringing with him a wealth of both commercial and tourism experience.
This position will consider long-term sustainability, visitor demands and a coordinated management of all elements that make up a destination, these include placing a priority on social license, sustainability and carbon impacts, the provision of visitor infrastructure, attracting and managing investment into attractions, amenities, access, marketing and pricing.
MICE (Meetings Incentives, Conferences and Events) Executive – Louise Woodburn.
Louise joined DWC just over a month ago and has been out and about meeting businesses and operators on the Coast and promoting the opportunities that we have here to various Professional Conference Organisers (PCOs) around New Zealand.
She is working directly with key decision makers from corporates to PCOs, and marketing the West Coast region to domestic conference delegates, corporates, sporting organisations and the general population.
Both of these positions complement the economic development function at DWC, which includes the Capability and Growth team, Regional Tourism team and Research and Innovation.
Following the overwhelming positive feedback from the recent South Westland wellbeing workshop, DWC will be hosting another event on 4 November.
The full-day workshop facilitated by Hannah Fitzgibbon (Hannah Fitzgibbon Facilitation) and Astiana Trouland (Hauora Coaching) will be held at Shantytown.
DWC Capability and Growth Advisor Ian Johnson said the workshop demonstrated that we need to be more forward in looking after ourselves and bringing our communities closer in times of doubt and crisis.
Kimmy Nolan from HeliServices.NZ attended the previous workshop in Fox Glacier saying: “It was brilliant. It actually made me stop and have a moment of time to myself. It made me appreciate more of what I do with myself, and it was really enjoyable.”
"If it’s a course that you’re thinking about, I highly recommend that you go along, you won’t be disappointed.”
Attendees at the recent Wellbeing Workshop help in South Westland.
DWC is bringing community governance training to the West Coast.
This one-day introductory community governance workshop is facilitated by Richard Westlake and Vaughan Renner of Westlake Governance and is designed for not-for-profit and community organisations.
DWC Programme Coordinator Rachel Doolan says the workshop is ideal for any community organisation, including sporting, cultural and business organisations, looking to improve their governance capabilities.
“Attending the programme will help you understand the key roles and responsibilities of the board and individual directors. You will learn about board relationships, good processes and decision making, and the important elements for operating an effective board.
“Richard and Vaughan will also discuss the pressures and conflicts that arise when governing in a small community.”
• What governance is (and isn’t)
• The role of the board and management (often the same people)
• Getting to good decisions - boardroom behaviour and dynamics
• The board and finance
• The board’s role in strategy
• The board’s role in identifying and overseeing risk
• Stakeholder influence and communication.
Date: 6 November 2020
Venue: Westport Bridge Club
For the past month DWC has had a roving Wikipedian working on the Coast to improve the region’s profile in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.
“Wikipedia is increasingly the first port of call for those looking up facts or planning travel. Wikipedia has over six million articles in English, but the volunteer community in New Zealand is quite small so our coverage is often second-rate,” says Dr Mike Dickison.
Recent research has shown that improving an area's presence in Wikipedia can increase tourist stays by 9%, so it is in everyone's interest for the West Coast to have good accurate information and photos available.
Dr Dickison, who previously spent a year as NZ Wikipedian at Large, has spent four weeks working in Westport, Greymouth, and Hokitika, and is about to spend a fortnight in the Glacier Country. He has given presentations for tourism operators explaining what they can and can't do with Wikipedia, and run workshops for heritage organisations like Hokitika Museum and History House to help them make their photo collections available under an open licence. Dr Dickison has also run public Wikipedia trainings to build a base of local volunteers who can keep working on articles independently.
The project has been helped by over a dozen volunteers all over New Zealand and Australia working remotely on West Coast topics. Every day they report on their progress, and every week get a virtual "Postcard from the Coast" in their inbox with ideas and tasks for the weeks to come. The volunteers have created numerous West Coast articles, including articles on the Hokitika Gorge, Hokitika Museum, the Rūnunga Miners' Hall, and Ōkārito Lagoon. An article about the Hokitika Town Clock was featured on Wikipedia's home page for a day attracting thousands of readers.
A major part of the project has been trying to make a good photo gallery available for every West Coast place, person, or institution covered in Wikipedia. The Wikipedian at Large has been taking photographs of every historic building, and working with professional photographers who have generously donated some of their work to the public domain. Stewart Nimmo, Jase Blair, and Charlie Bruning have all supplied photos, and over 725 have been added to the free photo library Wikimedia Commons so far.
Over the next two weeks, the project will improve coverage of the Glacier Country, with Dr Dickison then heading to Reefton.
Participants of the Editing Wikipedia workshop help recently in Hokitika.