Warkworth i-SITE seems set for a return to mainly volunteer staffing by the end of the year, following the resignation of its manager and staff, and no immediate plans to employ paid replacements.
Penny Webster, the recently appointed executive chair of Matakana Coast Tourism (MCT), is appealing for volunteer helpers to come forward to help staff the i-SITE as it enters its peak summer period.
The call comes after former manager and regional tourism coordinator Olivia Austin left MCT to join a tour company in September and the recent resignation of the i-SITES’ two part-time visitor consultants.
Mrs Webster says a final decision on whether any or all will be replaced is yet to be made, and in the meantime, she will be taking on some of the regional tourism work and is looking for volunteers to fill the i-SITE positions.
“We’re reviewing the whole situation at the moment, I can’t really say one way or another,” she says.
“The regional coordinator, that’s part of what I’m doing as executive chair, so I’m taking on some of that role.”
The former Rodney mayor and Auckland councillor has taken the helm at MCT as the promotion group enters its last year of financial assistance from Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED), with a final grant of $50,000 before the organisation goes fully self-sufficient next financial year. MCT took over the management of the i-SITE in April 2015, in a three-year $215,000 deal with ATEED.
Mrs Webster admits future financing is an issue, but says MCT is looking at pursuing grants from elsewhere and building membership.
“These are issues we need to tackle, but I don’t look at problems, I look at challenges,” she says. “It would be nice to get grants from elsewhere, but while you can get grants for individual ventures, it’s difficult to get them for a region. We’re looking at all sorts of things.”
She has set up a range of sub-committees in a bid to expedite the
decision-making process and streamlined MCT membership requirements to make it easier for individuals and businesses to join, a process which she says has been ‘clunky’ in the past.
“My role is to bring all the different strands together, it’s become a bit fragmented. It needs to be easier for everybody and everyone needs to be treated equally. More members will mean more funding.
We’ve got some amazing people and it’s about building that goodwill and bringing people to share the same vision.”