Bypassing of Gore concern for retailers

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GPS systems directing tourists away systems are bypassing Gore, resulting in a potential financial loss to the town’s retailers.

Gore District Council events and promotions co-ordinator Emma Carle said in a report tabled at the council’s community services committee meeting last Wednesday that a significant amount of tourist traffic was bypassing Gore and travelling the back roads from McNab to the other side of Riversdale, via Otama and the Pyramid Bridge.

“They are being directed to that route by their GPS navigation systems,” Ms Carle said in the report.

“This means there is a potential loss of income for Gore retailers, and they also bypass our major tourism attractions in Gore and at Mandeville,” she said.

The council approached the NZ Transport Agency, which suggested signs be installed at each end of the alternative route, saying the road was unsuitable for motor homes, she said.

Ms Carle had also contacted one of the GPS companies, Tom Tom, asking it to review its map system so it would alert drivers to the back-road hazards, including a gravel road, single-lane bridge and winding road.

The request was submitted on February 23 and she was still waiting for a response.

The NZTA was educating drivers on better use of GPS, she said.

If drivers chose the fastest route on their device it navigated them through Gore but when they keyed in the shortest route it directed them to the alternate route, she said.

The NZTA had a visiting drivers’ project and had been working with vehicle rental companies and others to ensure that, where possible, visitors were given good advice about routes to take, and which GPS settings to use to ensure they took the safest route, excluding the shortest route and gravel roads, she said.

However, only those who asked for assistance received that information and it did not reach visitors who borrowed or bought vehicles.

Cr Ralph Beale was aware visitors to the district were using GPS which directed them to bypass the town.

“We could be losing a lot of revenue,” Cr Beale said.

Cr Doug Grant, who is also on the GoRetail steering committee, said after the meeting the directing of tourists to miss the town was not good.

Cr Grant believed it had been happening for “quite a while”.

“We’re not the only town [where] this happens. It happens quite frequently around New Zealand,” Cr Grant said.

“Retail is hard enough without people being redirected around Gore.”

Not only was Cr Grant concerned about the town missing out on possible revenue, but there were also safety concerns about tourists driving on gravel roads.

There had already been instances when tourists had had accidents on unsealed roads in the area, he said.