Claris Service Centre at Aotea, Great Barrier Island.

Tourism Hui Marred by Walkouts

In a surprising turn of events, the hui convened to discuss the future of tourism on Aotea Great Barrier Island saw more than a dozen attendees walking out within the first ten minutes. Organisers though, say it was a success.

Convened by Auckland Unlimited and the local board, the hui was supposed to discuss the controversial Aotea Great Barrier Island Destination Management Plan (DMP) and the island’s tourism trajectory.

A strategic document prepared by an Australian consultancy firm, the DMP sparked controversy by suggesting a move away from pre-COVID-19 tourism numbers, at a time when businesses are struggling and many are raising the ‘for sale’ sign or giving up full stop.

During the hui, frustration boiled over as the format shifted to group brainstorming rather than the expected in-depth discussion on the DMP. An attendee shared, “Precious time was wasted on rehashing the same old stuff. We came for a sensible discussion about the DMP, but the opportunity was lost.”

The group expressed their dissatisfaction with the meeting’s progression, which seemed to sidestep the dialogue on the DMP’s contents and implications.

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A concern for many is the impact of the prohibitive travel costs on the island’s tourism. With car ferry prices reaching $500 one way—almost three times the cost of the Cook Strait ferry for a comparable distance—travel to Aotea Great Barrier Island has become more expensive than flying to Australia, underscoring a severe impediment to the local tourism sector’s success.

The hui’s timing, set for 5 PM on a weekday, was another point of contention for those who reside off-island or have weekday commitments, and spotlighted the need for streaming —a request made by AoteaGBI.news but was declined.

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Pa Beach Cafe, 82 Blackwell Drive, Tryphena, Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

Support staff were asked and confirmed they ‘absolutely’ could [stream the event], before AoteaGBI.news received an email at 3 pm saying the event would not be streamed, with no further explanation as to why.

Around 30 stayed at the Hui. Descriptions of the event included one attendee likening it to “buzzwords on a blackboard” and another describing it as “an hour and a half of posters and scribbles, followed by some discussion.” Another attendee noted it involved “doubling up and rehashing of fluffy stuff,” but acknowledged it was “a good way to engage those who have not been engaged in DMP stuff before.”

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Pa Beach Cafe, 82 Blackwell Drive, Tryphena, Great Barrier Island (Aotea)

One exasperated departing attendee exclaimed that not even “free drink tokens” for those who “stayed the whole time” were enough to keep them in attendance.

Tātaki Auckland Unlimited and the Local Board did not initially respond to a request for comment. However, following the publication of this article, an employee of the Auckland Council addressed the matter on Facebook, acknowledging that while the event was “wasn’t perfect by any stretch,” it ultimately yielded a positive outcome.

In a subsequent response from Auckland Unlimited, a spokesperson described attendance as “strong” noting that “a handful of people didn’t stay for the entire discussion.”

“Overall, attendees shared positive feedback, and were respectful of the progress made, the plan and alignment with the direction Aotea Great Barrier Island is looking to take, in terms of how the island is being supported through a mix of marketing and promotion, while preserving the essence of the island.” they claimed.

The local board and Tātaki Auckland Unlimited have called for expressions of interest from attendees to be part of a steering group to progress the plan.

A summary of the discussions and outcomes of the hui will be shared with those who attended, next month.

What do you think? Were you at the Hui? What could’ve been done better? Email editor@aoteagbi.news

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