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Council assists Waimarie Operating Trust

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

New promotional opportunities for the PS Waimarie will be built into a business plan to be developed by July 1.

Wanganui Mayor Annette Main and Waimarie Operating Trust Chair Christine Jones said that due to the poor weather conditions in February and March, the Waimarie has had lower than expected patronage and reduced cash flow in recent months.

Mrs Jones said that while the paddle steamer had had some excellent sailing over the summer, the business had still not caught up with the losses from previous years.

"We started this last season way behind the 'eight-ball'," she said, "and the particularly wet summer and autumn has not helped at all.

"One of our biggest costs is our insurance premiums which alone are nearing $30,000 per annum and that takes a lot of passengers to pay off.

"On a positive note however, we have had some record sailings with over 100 passengers travelling on Easter Sunday alone, but, as they say, one fine day does not make a summer."

This week the Wanganui District Council agreed to assist the Waimarie Operating Trust with a grant of up to $30,000 from its economic development budget, Mayor Main said.

"This will enable the Waimarie to keep functioning while the Trust seeks other sources of income. The Trust is developing a comprehensive business plan and reports to our Strategy and Finance Committee every six months on progress.

"The Council agreed that it has a role to play in supporting Wanganui's iconic paddle steamer. The restoration of the PS Waimarie as a distinctive and unique visitor attraction for our district was supported by our community. There is a strong association with the well recognised combination of Whanganui River and heritage aspects of our image. I am confident the Trustees have the skills required to guide it through what are difficult times for many businesses."

Mrs Jones said that the General Manager Stuart Perry is looking at a number of options to improve the operation, trim back costs, find financial business partners, revise the sailing days and working in with other visitor attractions including other riverboat operators.

"We are working hard on developing and implementing strategies that will ultimately enable the Waimarie to operate with minimal Council input. We are looking for other funding sources, introducing new activities and uses for the Waimarie and we recently launched a campaign to attract business partners.

"With developments taking place at Upokongaro, we will be able to offer an enhanced visitor experience. The planned shared pathway between Upokongaro and urban Wanganui will mean people can walk or cycle in one direction and take a ride on the Waimarie in the other direction. A new caf� has opened at Upokongaro and there is a proposal for a collection of antiquities of local relevance and information on river activities to be established in the Upokongaro Memorial Hall.

"Thanks to the additional support of the Council, we now have a stronger window of opportunity to develop a sustainable business plan for the future of this important visitor icon."

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