I'm not really one for New Year resolutions, as they have a tendency to be full of good intentions, but frequently are never fulfilled. I did have a couple of things that I thought I'd like to do in 2015, which though not official resolutions, have turned out to be things that are going pretty well so far. It turns out the two are somewhat related.
The first of my plans was to get fit to the point that I could enjoy some of the more rigorous outdoor adventures that Marlborough offers, and the second one was to bring this web site up to date.
About a year ago I heard feedback from a client, that Destination Marlborough had told them that they should link to their official Marlborough site, not this one, as Marlborough Online was very out of date. I look at criticism objectively, and although Destination Marlborough have never contacted me directly, they were right. Maintaining a site with as much information as Marlborough Online with a zero budget, vs a council supported site that has significant financial support might seem like a David vs Goliath struggle, except it isn't. Destination Marlborough is clearly focused on regional tourism, and while having a sizeable budget is nice, it's also a restraint. There is information about Marlborough that will never get published on the official Marlborough visitor site, because it is outside their scope of operation, and also possibly outside their budget.
I've gone back to the roots of Marlborough Online, and looked at how I can improve on it. I've also taken a look at what Destination Marlborough don't do well, to see if I can fill a niche that is being overlooked. I made a decision a long time ago that Marlborough Online would never be a news site, as the region is already served by The Marlborough Express and Blenheim Sun newspapers, and even with teams of reporters and a budget, they can't be in all places at all times. I'm also not trying to create a regional tourism site, although I expect many tourists will find the site useful. The problem for me with a tourism site is its source of funding derived from local operators, so it's only natural there will be a need to give priority to paid activities. I'm all for supporting the regional economy, but sooner or later, the holiday budget is spent, and especially if you live or are planning to live in Marlborough, you'll need to plan for an ongoing lifestyle, based around what's on offer in the region.
In 2014 the Marlborough District Council, Destination Marlborough, and the Marlborough Chamber of Commerce came up with the concept of 'The Marlborough Story'. I've been telling telling the Marlborough Story, and will continue to do so, via this web site since 2002. I started telling stories about local stuff way back at high school at Marlborough Boys' College. My final year at college was a bit of a wipe out academically, but somehow I managed to pull of a prize for contributions to the school magazine, the Marlburian. Back then 'copy & paste' was literally just that with scissors and glue, black and white photography was still widely used, and all photography was done with film.
Fast forward to 2015, and perhaps for the first time since that last year in high school, I have some symbols of achievement, a couple of photographic trophies. Tellingly, one is an individual one, but the other is for a team effort. Marlborough has a lot of incredibly talented individuals pursuing a wide range of interests. I've been fortunate enough to be involved with a variety of different groups and individuals doing great stuff in Marlborough, and I know of many more that I'd love to have time to follow up. Back in high school, I was like many young people who couldn't wait to leave Marlborough as I thought the region had nothing to offer. Now I wish I had more time to explore everything the region has to offer, and believe it or not, while I enjoy a good wine now and again, wine is actually a very long way down my list of things I appreciate about Marlborough.
One of the things that came out of the 'Marlborough Story' initiative was a regional branding strategy, and the expression 'Only Marlborough'. I have to confess I'm a bit uninspired by this, as the first thing that came to mind was 'Only in America' followed by some tale of idiocy followed by a Homer Simpson 'Doh'. I've taken enough lingustics papers to know that connotation is every bit as important as denotation (literal meaning). Unfortunately 'Only Marlborough' immediately created negative connotation for me, however I've seen another expression that seems to have arisen out of the regional branding strategy, that I immediately became excited about, 'Brilliant every day'. I think that truly captures the essence of Marlborough, as even if the sun isn't always shining, there are clever people, fascinating history and amazing places to be discovered. I think it's that essence of Marlborough that as I've discovered it, and slowly dug deeper to reveal in greater detail, that has driven this site.
Back to my New Year sort of resolutions, of fitness, and updates to this site, I'm a firm believer in boots on the ground. Looking back to my childhood again, one of my favourite publications was National Geographic. I heard of a guy who obsessed over the ads for Rolexes and other fancy watches in them. For me, it was always the cameras, and of course the stunning pictures. Tapuae-o-uenuku is the highest peak in NZ outside the Southern Alps. It's not hard to take nice pictures from a distance. Should I get fit enough to climb it and get up close and personal? Maybe. There are plenty of other tough, but not as tough places of rugged beauty as well. There are lots of places in the outer Sounds I've never been to. I don't want to just tell about Marlborough, I want to show it personally, and I'm constantly striving to capture more than just 'average' images, but it all takes time. While Marlborough Online is mostly facts and figures, and you won't find much gushy marketing language here, I want to display the region in glorious detail.
For 13 years I've been on this journey alone, and while in some ways I quite like it that way, I realise parts of the story are not getting told. I know there are many talented writers and photographers out there. I also realise people need to earn a living, but there are some smart people with business ideas out there, who could come up with a business model to make a site like this pay. If you're one of them, or simply know of a local story of timeless quality that needs to be told, I'd love to hear from you. If you have your own local web site, you can also help by providing a link to Marlborough Online as a source of local information. Remember, this isn't a news site, or a tourism site, but if it could be anything, what I'd most aspire to would be a site in the traditions of National Geographic.