Photo: Florence Charvin

Hawke’s Bay’s vibrant visitor economy is being threatened with extinction. 

Our Regional Council has signalled that it will no longer collect an economic develop levy to fund tourism promotion work conducted by Hawke’s Bay Tourism as of July 1, in an effort to keep their own rate rises under control. 

We get it. Everyone has to be mindful of spending as the region continues to recover following Cyclone Gabrielle. But it seems that tourism is bearing an unfair burden. 

HBRC has proposed that Hawke’s Bay Tourism’s funding be cut by two thirds this coming financial year, and then entirely by end of the 26/27 year. If that happens, it will be a disaster for the region, and we have made it clear that Hawke’s Bay Tourism will close on 1 July. 

However, this is not about Hawke’s Bay Tourism. This is about Hawke’s Bay’s tourism – lower case ‘t’– and there is a lot at stake. 

Let’s start with the future of the hundreds of businesses that benefit from tourism, the thousands of jobs within those businesses, and the $1.3 billion  of direct and indirect revenue generated by domestic and international visitors every year. Tourism is the third largest earning sector for Hawke’s Bay. At this time of economic crisis, our region simply cannot afford to lose it. 

Everyone benefits from tourism, not just accommodation and hospitality businesses. In fact, figures from Tourism Industry Aotearoa show that just 20% of tourism spend is direct to tourism specific activities, with 80% in broader goods and services. 

On average there are 18,000 visitors in Hawke’s Bay, every day. Visitors spend when they travel; more than a third of all tourism spend is on retail from fuel to supermarkets, to gifts and clothing and bottle shops. Tourism and hospitality operators purchase goods and services from other businesses in the region, creating a multiplier effect throughout the economy. 

Not only that, but as locals we get to enjoy the vibrant retail and world class hospitality scene that tourism makes possible, as well as consistent and frequent air connections to other parts of New Zealand. 

All of that would be impacted if we stop coordinated promotion of Hawke’s Bay. 

This is why we can’t accept what the Regional Council wants to do, and will fight to preserve the sector’s funding levy, and protect the economy. 

There is no one waiting in the wings to take over, and currently no other pot of funds or funding model to replace what is collected by Regional Council. If Hawke’s Bay Tourism is forced to close, our visitor economy will fall far, and fast. And there’ll be no coming back. It is as simple as that. 

As an organisation we have been hugely successful in positioning Hawke’s Bay as New Zealand’s Food and Wine Country, as well as securing the highly prestigious Great Wine Capitals of the World accreditation. We are the envy of many other regions on both of these points and other regions will step up and steal those highly sought-after proof points if we can’t manage, invest in, and defend them.

If Hawke’s Bay Tourism isn’t around, who’s going to:

  • Curate, keep current and promote the several thousand pages of content on ? 
  • Promote Hawke’s Bay to potential domestic travellers in markets such as Auckland and Wellington? 
  • Work with Air New Zealand and other airlines to promote the region’s strengths to support marketing campaigns and sales, and supply content for Kia Ora magazine?
  • Bid for regional events and conferences?
  • Give impartial advice/recommendations to professional conference organisers?
  • Represent Hawke’s Bay as a collective at travel trade shows?
  • Give local/international travel companies and Tourism NZ advice on accommodation, activities and new reasons to visit Hawke’s Bay?
  • Ensure that Hawke’s Bay is adequately represented on the country’s official promotion website ?
  • Manage, keep current and permit use of the library of images to lure, intrigue, enthuse and entice?
  • Promote Hawke’s Bay as a visitor destination to media?
  • Host media familiarisations and develop/manage itineraries?
  • Manage and protect “Food and Wine Country” and “Great Wine Capitals” positioning?
  • Work with the cruise industry in promoting Hawke’s Bay and Napier as a must-include port in their itineraries?
  • Make efforts to protect daily visitor numbers that support our hospitality sector?
  • Co-ordinate a response to funding if and when MBIE coordinates a new funding initiative or round?
  • Bring the tourism industry together to invest in a collective marketing campaign?
  • Coordinate a tourism recovery after our next pandemic or natural disaster? 

The answer to all of these very important questions is NO ONE. All of this work will stop, people who want to go on holiday will go elsewhere, and Hawke’s Bay will slowly, but surely, fade from people’s consciousness.

We have an opportunity to participate in the Regional Council’s three-year plan consultation process, until 15 May. We are encouraging as many businesses and people as possible to submit in favour of Option B – funding maintained at its current level of $1.52 million for FY24/25, with local councils agreeing to step in and fund visitor attraction directly alongside HBRC for the following two years – and to present their submissions to the Regional Council. This gives us time to partner with local government to achieve a long-term, sustainable funding model.

Our regional councillors are politicians, representing the people in their area, and have said that they will listen to the community. So, it’s up to you, the community, to tell the council that you want continued funding for tourism. 

To our regional councillors – who are promoting a three-year plan focussed on recovery and resilience – I ask; how will Hawke’s Bay compete against other regions vying for the tourist dollar? Or is the recovery and resilience of the visitor economy, and the hundreds of businesses and ten thousand jobs, just not important?

Being a local government representative is a privilege that comes with big responsibilities. If visitor attraction funding is cut, who from the Regional Council will put their hand up and take responsibility for Hawke’s Bay becoming a forgotten backwater, because they made that happen? 


Join the Conversation


  1. How do you ‘submit’ . An explanation of the steps to do this as an individual would be helpful .
    HBRC website is not easy to navigate.

  2. Hawke’s Bay is essentially a backwater stuck out on the side of the North Island and cut off from the main highway in the middle of the country. If Tourism HB ceases to exist that backwater will become a reality with visitors driving straight past the turn off from Taupo and heading north/south bypassing us entirely. The idea of closing down Tourism HB is not only stupid and shortsighted – it also verges on an abrogation of the responsibility of councils to govern our region effectively and efficiently with a view to the future welfare of its citizens.

  3. BRILLIANT and so well put George.
    I fully support and endorse all the arguments you make.

    The tourism levy from Councils across the HB region can not afford to be reduced. Indeed in tough times, marketing philosophy and proven principles would say, the investment in tourism promotion and development by HB Tourism, needs to be INCREASED in order that the region maintains or can increase it’s current visitation market share.

    Sir Graeme Avery

  4. HBs Councils / local authorities need to give “their urgent & genuine” consideration to introducing a bed & services tax! The likes simililary charged to visitors, in near all other overseas countries. As was conviviably discussed during Sir Graeme’s kindly dining & wining the Napier mayor & councilors some 20 years ago!!!

    For I sincerely believe right Now, is the NEED time to slam the brakes on “continually screwing” the ordinary, lots in struggle street, hard pressed ratepayers!
    My respects to Sir Greame Avery. end of.

  5. Why pluck the jewel from the crown, I ask? And why does it always seem like slapping on another tax is the default solution? The worth of tourism to Hawkes Bay extends beyond just dollars spent by visitors; it encompasses the region’s distinctiveness and the vibrant community that calls it home. We’ve got untapped avenues for generating income, waiting to be explored!

    But hey, who’s to say there isn’t someone waiting in the wings, ready to step up? Or that there aren’t other pots of gold waiting to be discovered, aside from what the Regional Council collects?

    Now, George’s dire prediction about Hawke’s Bay Tourism closing up shop—that’s quite the doomsday scenario! But hang on, George, could it be that this situation reveals a lack of foresight in HBT’s planning? Have they always relied on the Regional Council’s handouts without a backup plan?

    Shutting down Hawkes Bay Tourism might seem short-sighted, given how everyone benefits from tourism, not just the hotels and restaurants. But hey, maybe this is our chance to shake things up and breathe new life into tourism here. Let’s believe in the innovative folks and businesses in our community. There’s room for growth and improvement, especially when it comes to ditching old-fashioned perspectives and embracing fresh ideas!

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