The staggering success of West Coast Regional Council’s new “Untamed natural wilderness” brand has made it a finalist in the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) EXCELLENCE Awards.
Now in their fourth year, the Awards recognise and celebrate the key leadership role that local government plays in communities around the country.
The project to develop the brand is a finalist in the Crown Fibre Holdings EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice Contribution to Local Economic Development.
Since the brand was launched in May 2016, the impact on tourism on the West Coast has been dramatic.
West Coast tourism expenditure is up 13.1 percent ($61 million), compared to 9.1 percent for the South Island. Bed nights have increased 85,170 between February 2016 and February 2017.
The 0.4 percent increase in tourism market share, from 5.1 to 5.5 percent, reversed six years of losses in less than a year.
The need to grow the tourism market was clear following the decline of other major economic sectors on the Coast, and the previous “West Coast of the Southern Alps” was not resonating with visitors.
Following consultation with tourism operators from Haast to Karamea, the brand was adopted.
When feedback from China indicated some concern about the meaning of “untamed” – that it may mean tourists may be bitten by snakes – specific Mandarin translations were developed to explain the brand wording:
- Untamed: a place not crowded which nature created
- Natural: as nature intended
- Wilderness: land not sea, untouched, remote, beautiful, clear and vast
Judges said the four West Coast councils realised they needed to come together to develop a brand for the region to make sure it was best placed to capitalise on the burgeoning tourism industry.
“They did it smartly and now have a very clear marketing approach which has been recognised by other industries. It is a brilliant initiative with immediate results.”
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule said the finalists in the EXCELLENCE Awards showcased outstanding leadership being provided by local government throughout the country.
“Local government is at the centre of every community in New Zealand, helping shape the environment in which we work and play,” Mr Yule says.
“Being named as a finalist is a great achievement and reflects the vision shown by councils and the innovative work being done by staff. The finalists include some truly exceptional projects that are having a profound impact on communities.”
Local authorities were invited to submit award applications in five categories:
- Fulton Hogan EXCELLENCE Award for Community Engagement
- Creative New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Best Creative Place
- Air New Zealand EXCELLENCE Award for Environmental Impact
- Chorus EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice in Infrastructure
- Crown Fibre Holdings EXCELLENCE Award for Best Practice Contribution to Local Economic Development
Judges for the awards are former Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast, Chair of EQC Sir Maarten Wevers and The New Zealand Initiative’s Executive Director, Dr Oliver Hartwich.