NZ tourist towns in infrastructure freefall

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Core infrastructure such as water reticulation is under huge pressure from tourism, requiring some fresh thinking for local authorities left to cope.

Visiting small New Zealand towns (excluding ‘winter wonderland’ Queenstown) in late June is a peaceful affair. Many shops close down and just a few scattered holidayers stroll around the village. Come summer time, sunhat-donned throngs of tourists clog the streets, ‘No Vacancy’ signs light up the night and ice cream sales soar.

Tourism is an important contributor to the New Zealand economy, with over 3.1million people visiting New Zealand every year. These numbers are only predicted to rise. Visitor arrivals to New Zealand were expected to grow 5.4% a year and reach 4.5million visitors in 2022.

There is also an increasing trend for tourists to venture out beyond major cities to explore the country’s regions.

Cities can easily accommodate extra people, but during peak season for small tourist towns, infrastructure such as the fresh water reticulation is often stretched to breaking point. With the population sometimes more than doubling during busy seasons, the infrastructure may struggle to handle the increase in use, making pipes more susceptible to cracks and leaks.

Ratepayers living in these small towns struggle to cope with infrastructure repair costs, leaving councils to come up with new ways to fund maintenance. Associate Minister of Tourism Paula Bennett recently alluded to government funding for tourist town infrastructure, but other methods may also be necessary.

In terms of water management, implementing meters allows councils to pinpoint the areas of water infrastructure that are most under pressure during peak seasons, and allocate resources accordingly. It also gives councils the opportunity to work with local businesses to pass on some of the costs of maintenance to tourists.

For example, a successful hotel with an indication of infrastructure strain may be able to charge guests an extra 10% during peak season to cover repair and maintenance costs of infrastructure.

Councils of small towns need to lock down strategies for infrastructure maintenance as visitor numbers increase. Doing nothing may leave infrastructure free falling into disrepair.

Read how the Kapiti District Council achieved a 26% decrease in water use by implementing meters and other smart management measures. To discuss how a metering system can benefit your region, contact the DataCol team here.

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