Central Otago Mayor Cadogan has hit back at criticism levelled by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash over delays in completing destination management plans.

In a speech to last week’s University of Otago tourism school, and in a Wednesday evening webinar with the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce, Mr Nash expressed his dissatisfaction over destination management plans, saying fewer than half of the 31 Regional Tourism Organisations which got some of the $47million to develop plans in 2020 had done so.

He said he did not think it was that difficult and, in his opinion, should not have taken even one year to complete.

In an open letter to Mr Nash, Mr Cadogan said he felt compelled to share his concerns at the impact his words to the tourism policy school, specifically, could have.

“I am troubled that such a public statement could derail what most would say is the most transformational mahi anyone in tourism has ever seen,” he wrote.

While he was mindful of Mr Nash’s “frustration at the pace of delivery”, Mr Cadogan said the speed of writing the plan paled in comparison to its outcome, “because the community created it”.

“Beyond that, the success of the plan will lie in the capability and resourcing to implement and deliver it.

“That is how the return on investment will be achieved and measured, not the time taken to create the plan.”

Mr Cadogan pointed out the funding was only released to CODC’s bank account in September, 2020, and in the past two RTO reports to the council it had been signalled there were delays to the plan due to “factors outside of their control at critical stages of the process”.

In CODC’s case, essential research was interrupted by last August’s lockdown.

There, Mr Cadogan said, the plan was being co-designed with mana whenua and there had been an “enormous amount of face-to-face research” with the community at large.

That work had been completed and the plan was due to be presented to councillors at a meeting on April 27.

“That is only four months overdue from the original completion date set with [Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment] officials. “Remarkable, really, given the challenges that we have all faced in the last 18 months.”

Mr Cadogan told Mr Nash he hoped the district of 24,000 people could rely on Government support “beyond simply creating the plan, to implementing it successfully”.

Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult said he was “surprised” to read Mr Nash’s comments because during the latter’s visit to Queenstown a fortnight ago the plan was discussed “and there were no issues raised around the process”.

Given the plan was being developed in conjunction with the council, Destination Queenstown and Lake Wanaka Tourism and the Government, and the climate it was happening in, “I think we would say that we’re very happy with the progress of the plan to date”, Mr Boult said.