Opportunities in tourism and organics

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YVONNE O’HARA

yvonne.ohara@alliedpress.co.nz

Luxury tourism, high-speed connectivity and increased organic fruit production were some of the ideas put forward during the Alexandra Clyde and Districts Business Group’s monthly breakfast meeting last Friday.

The meeting, the third of three, heard speakers share their thoughts about future opportunities for the area.

Olivers Restaurant and Bar owner David Ritchie, former footwear retailer Murray Bell and Centre for Space Centre Technology chief executive Steve Cotter outlined their thoughts about “Where are we heading?”.

Mr Ritchie said he would like to see the luxury accommodation and activity end of the market further developed in Central Otago.

He said while there was a market for freedom campers and backpackers, many overseas tourists were prepared to pay extra for luxury accommodation and experiences.

“That is becoming a significant part of the tourism industry,” Mr Ritchie said.

More money needed to be spent on both infrastructure to handle the increase and further advertising of Central Otago.

“Queenstown tips them upside down and gets all the money out of their pockets before they come here.

“We need to make them spend more money here [in Central Otago]”.

Staffing is also an issue, and while many businesses employed overseas workers, many tourists wanted to talk to local people about local things.

However, the often low wages paid in the industry did not attract local workers.

Murray Bell, of Alexandra, used to own four footwear shops before retiring to focus on growing organic apples.

He can see a bright future for organic produce grown in the region.

He exported 90,000 cartons of apples last year and expects to export 120,000 this year, most of it to the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States and Asia.

“It [organics] is a huge growth industry,” he said.

“There was huge scope for more of this to happen [in Central Otago].”

However, there was a lack of government support for irrigation and more houses and lifestyle blocks were being built on land suitable for growing food.

He said it was important to have sustainable access to water and water storage, especially as the region had low rainfall and long dry periods.

He wanted to see a 100-year plan for the region and a strategy to ensure future subdivision sites were not left to chance.

Centre for Space Science Technology chief executive Steve Cotter said he would like to see faster connectivity available for Central Otago and he had been talking to companies to source it at an affordable price.

He suggested a cable be laid between Cromwell and Alexandra, piggy-backing it on the proposed Clyde to Cromwell cycle trail.

Ideally, the higher connectivity speeds would allow an innovation hub development and he would like to see Alexandra businesses working together to achieve that.

By working together, the region’s businesses would help each other become stronger and more competitive.

“As long as we pull together and help each other out, we will have a much higher chance of success,” Mr Cotter said.