Tourism Minister Paula Bennett has announced a $102 million infrastructure fund and $76m extra for the Department of Conservation.
While DoC funding is seen as a win for the department struggling with increased numbers on its popular walking tracks, the infrastructure fund is spread over four years and includes $41.5m already allocated for new tourism ventures.
One industry leader said the infrastructure fund was a ”good first step” while another said it was underwhelming.
The fund will provide $100m in the next four years in partnership with local councils and other community organisations, for projects such as new car parks, toilets and freedom camping facilities.
“Tourism is hugely important to New Zealand. It creates jobs and brings in billions of dollars to the economy. That’s why it’s important that we keep investing so we continue to attract high-value tourists and give them an amazing visitor experience,” Bennett said.
The extra $76m given to DoC will be used to upgrade and develop tourist facilities on conservation land and to expand the Great Walks network.
The infrastructure fund announced today is made up of $60.5m in new money from this month’s Budget and $41.5m reprioritised from the Tourism Growth Partnership and the Regional Mid-Sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund.
Of that, $2m over four years has been provided to manage it.
In the past year about $17m has been earmarked for infrastructure in small centres over four years, funding that had disappointed the industry.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said today’s announcement fell a long way short of the $100m a year for infrastructure his organisation had been pushing for during the last 18 months.
”This fund doesn’t go that far. It’s up to the local councils to prove they’ve got the projects. If this fund is oversubscribed as last year’s initial fund was – that will make the case that the fund needs to be bigger,” Roberts said.
Tourism Export Council chief executive Lesley Immink said she was underwhelmed and there had been a shuffling of money from a fund which backed much-needed new attractions to the infrastructure fund.
”At a time when tourism is going through a boom and we need more product we don’t want to lose $40 million out of the tourism growth fund to shuffle over,” Immink said.
Bennett said the fund would provide infrastructure such as toilets and car parks ”but we’re also prepared to consider projects like visitor information centres, and feasibility studies for infrastructure projects on a case-by-case basis”.
The industry had told the government that infrastructure was the top priority and the government had responded, she said.
• Annual total spend $34.7b, up 12.2 per cent.
• Domestic $20.2b, up 7.4 per cent.
• International $14.5b, up 19.6 per cent.
• Record arrival numbers: 3.5m in 2016, up 12 per cent.
”We’re moving from a focus of just boosting tourist numbers to also attracting higher-value tourists to all regions. This funding will ensure we have the capacity to do that.”
Successful projects would be co-funded by applicants, which would need to show that other funding options had been fully exhausted.
“Government is stepping in to help ensure we have the right infrastructure to support this important industry, especially in areas with high visitor numbers but small ratepayer bases.”
However, local government still had the lead role to play in building and maintaining that infrastructure. The private sector was also playing its part by investing in new and expanded commercial attractions and hotels, she said.
“Government will continue to work with councils and the industry to consider larger tourism projects, which will be funded outside of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund. We’ve done this in the past with the Hundertwasser Art Centre in Northland and we’re open to considering other opportunities.”
Last year international tourism expenditure reached $14.5 billion, which is more than 20 per cent of New Zealand’s total exports of goods and services.
Bennett said it was also a significant employer, generating about 188,000 jobs directly, and a further 144,000 indirectly.