Having a stagnant population isn’t all bad, Westland Mayor Bruce Smith maintains.
“No Kentucky Fried Chicken in our towns, no McDonald’s – and long may they stay away – but our growth comes from the growth in tourism numbers.”
Smith is the first-term mayor of a 360-kilometre-long stretch of the South Island’s rugged West Coast, home to 8800 people. The dynamics brought on by tourism are becoming impossible to deal with.
Take a town like Punakaiki, home to the famous Pancake Rocks. It’s got 300 ratepayers, but, Smith says, it gets about 5000 visitors a day. It needs about $3 million of work to bring its infrastructure, like drinking water and sewerage systems, up to scratch. “They can’t do it,” Smiths says of the local residents.