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Seven staff at Experience Mid Canterbury (EMC) have been made redundant as the Methven i-SITE closes and the district’s tourism promotion changes.

EMC is the Ashburton District Council’s tourism promotion agency; its funding was cut by half to $195,000 for the next financial year.

The job losses affect two full-time staff and five part-timers. It was a difficult decision to make, said EMC chair James Urquhart.

Council said today the district’s tourism promotion would now be delivered through a slimmer operational model from July 1 in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its significant impact on local tourism.

The EMC board had investigated ways to deliver the service on a smaller budget and going forward will partner with ChristchurchNZ (CHCHNZ) to promote Mid Canterbury.

Council recognises the need for an information service in Methven for both visitors and residents alike. As part of the new arrangement, EMC will close the Methven i-SITE, with the council instead looking at ways to provide an information service solution for Methven.

The decisions impact all seven EMC employees (two full-time and five part-time) who unfortunately will be made redundant.

“These are extraordinary and unprecedented times, and changing EMC’s operation including the i-SITE closure was a very difficult decision for us to make,’’ Mr Urquhart said. ‘‘Visitor numbers to the i-SITE were declining in the months prior to Covid-19 and the subsequent closure of New Zealand’s borders only further signified that our current operation needed to change.
“Both the board and council know it is important that we remain in the game and play our part in future-proofing our local industry.”

Through partnering with Christchurch City Council’s tourism and development agency, CHCHNZ, Mid Canterbury will benefit from shared marketing spends and capitalise on multi-district campaigns. To ensure continuity of relationships and market knowledge, it is envisaged that an EMC employee will join the CHCHNZ team to focus on Mid Canterbury tourism.

“This has been a difficult decision to be made, as our staff have been the backbone of tourism in our region,’’ Mr Urquhart said. ‘‘They all possess amazing local knowledge and information. Our board will be very sad to see our team leave but we will be working with the council to see what other opportunities there may be in the future. Our priority right now is to support our staff during this difficult time.”

CHCHNZ already partners with and provides tourism promotion for the Mackenzie District.
Reducing EMC’s funding by half to $195,000 for the 2020-21 financial year contributed to the saving that council needed to reduce the 2020-21 rate increase from 4.88 per cent to 2.5 per cent.