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The visitor information centres in Alexandra and Cromwell have been axed, taking with them seven jobs.

One i-Site job has also been cut in Ranfurly.
The Central Otago District Council last week confirmed the closures, ending days of speculation about their future.

The changes include permanently closing the i-Site in Alexandra and the i-Site in the Cromwell Mall, relocating its services for delivery by a private vendor and rationalising service delivery in Ranfurly.

The service in Roxburgh will continue.

As a result, eight permanent staff have been made redundant and a further temporary role had been disestablished.

Council chief executive Sanchia Jacobs said the decision was not made lightly.

‘‘When i-Sites closed due to the Covid-19 lockdown, many of the staff affected by this decision stepped up to help our civil defence function deliver welfare needs to the community dealing with situations well outside their normal duties with absolute integrity and heart.’’

In December, Tourism Central Otago conducted a review of its i-Site operations to ensure the service was fit for purpose and met the future needs of tourism in Central Otago.

The review looked into the commercial viability of i-Sites given decreasing revenue in the past five years, and as more and more people use online resources.

Tourism Central Otago general manager Dylan Rushbrook said it had been hard news to deliver to staff.

‘‘Times have changed, and the i-Site model was being seriously challenged prior to Covid-19.”

Recognising the heavy rates burden the i-Sites were imposing on Central Otago ratepayers, the Council directed staff to take the necessary steps to consider closure of i-Sites as a bid to lower the rates burden for Central Otago ratepayers.

The financial impact of the closures and rationalisation of services is a saving to rates of about $340,000, decreasing district wide-rates by approximately 1% in this move alone.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said the bottom line was in Central Otago i-Sites were costing the ratepayer far more to run than the revenue they generated.

Wanaka’s i-Site is owned by Lake Wanaka Tourism and reopened the day after the country moved to Alert Level 2.

Lake Wanaka Tourism general manager James Helmore said the Wanaka i-Site was a valuable shop front and sales office for many businesses in the Wanaka region and beyond and was one of the most successful i-Sites in New Zealand before the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘‘We are currently working through how it can remain relevant to visitors and businesses in a post Covid world’’ he said.

The site employed a mix of seasonal and year-round staff to match visitor demand.

‘‘At this time of year we have scaled down naturally to our core year-round team, reflecting the fact that it is the quietest time of year in May-June. We are looking forward to visitor demand increasing again as winter gets under way.’’

I-Sites at a glance:

  • The Cromwell i-Site will close permanently at its location in the Cromwell Mall at the end of June and will not reopen under council management. Council is in negotiations with The Gate hospitality complex to take over services by August. Four Cromwell i-Site roles are gone.
  • The Alexandra i-Site will close permanently and vacate the Central Stories building at the end of the June. The intention is to pass services previously provided by the i-Site over to a private vendor/vendors and, if needed, in the short term provide limited basic services through the Alexandra Council Service Centre. Three Alexandra i-Site roles will be lost.
  • Ranfurly i-Site is to resume full service from October 2020, or earlier if demand requires it. Some operational refinements will be made to match activity with demand. Future opportunities will be investigated to develop a shared service or partnership model. One Ranfurly i-Site role will be disestablished.
  • Roxburgh i-Site, which already operates under a shared service model (library, customer services and visitor information) has resumed i-Site services.