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World-class attractions key to growing tourism in Southland

Developing more world-class tourism attractions in the region could be key to harnessing visitor growth, Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) governance group chairman Tom Campbell says.

Commentators have recently highlighted New Zealand’s dependence on the dairy industry, and the challenges associated with growth in the tourism industry.

These challenges are among the central aspects of SoRDS work, which aims to increase Southland’s population by 10,000 by 2025.

Campbell said a rapid increase in visitors to New Zealand presented a world of opportunity to the Southland region, and several challenges, including how best to cater for growth.

That growth was already a reality with Southland registering an 8.7 per cent increase (to 425,957) in guest nights in the year to February, he said.

Southland’s challenge was how best to maintain and further grow the value of tourism. World-class visitor attractions and event venues such as Bill Richardson Transport World and ILT Stadium Southland are among the keys to achieving this, Campbell said.

Campbell said SoRDS remained focused on its mission of doing a few things well.

The four main initiatives being explored to help drive population growth are increasing international student numbers, further growth in tourism, developing the aquaculture industry in the region and through innovations in existing industries, he said.

Campbell said Southland had a long tradition of innovation and diverse thinking through the likes of a highly skilled engineering sector, the sheep milk industry and earth observation projects.

The fact the region’s bid for an earth observation institute was one of three nationwide shortlisted for $25 million in Government funding was further evidence of Southland’s potential, he said.

“But perhaps the biggest challenge will be to make sure potential new Southlanders know this is a great place to live and work. The work being done by SoRDS teams on attracting and retaining people here, and making sure this is the easiest place in New Zealand to do business, is absolutely key,” Campbell said.