By Glenn Conway on Sat, 5 Jul 2008
The Regions: Otago
Otago's mayors will this month be asked to embrace plans for a Chinese heritage trail that has the potential to bring hundreds of thousands of visitors into the region and provide a modern tourist gold mine.
Organisers of the proposed trail want to see it in place for the Lawrence 150th anniversary celebrations in 2011.
The trail would link the Chinese garden in Dunedin, the goldfields of Lawrence-Tuapeka and the Cromwell Mining Centre as key drawcards for visitors from China.
Exact details of the trail, how it would work, what it would include and the price tag have yet to be determined.
Dunedin historian Dr Jim Ng, who is also behind plans to recreate the Lawrence Chinese camp, will present the gold trail concept to the Otago Forward meeting on July 18.
This group of Otago leaders will be asked to endorse the idea in principle so Dr Ng and others can prepare a feasibility study and detailed costings.
A paper on the concept, prepared by Morgan GR Tourism Management, said several factors suggested Otago had significant potential for Chinese tourism.
Those factors included the recent signing of a free-trade agreement between both countries, Dunedin's sister city relationship with Shanghai, the Chinese garden, and joint pushes by Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand into the Chinese market.
Talks with tourism heads suggest there was a dearth of "Chinese-specific tourism products" which could lead to the development of Chinese tourism to New Zealand over the next decade.
"The conjunction of the Chinese history in Otago, current relationships between the Otago community and China, a milestone in the Lawrence sesquicentenary in 2011, the presence of New Zealand's leading tourism resort in Otago and the macro signals in the closer trading relationship between the two countries suggest the time is right for a [tourism] project to develop a Chinese heritage trail in the Otago region," the paper said.
The aim of the trail would be to provide a specific focus for the development of Chinese tourism to New Zealand, offer an economic return to the region and its communities, and enhance the identification, protection and interpretation of Chinese history in the region, it said.
The first three steps involve presenting the proposal, a feasibility study and then implementing the trail.