Thursday 11 May 2017 12:56 PM
Government chips in $178M to shore up tourism infrastructure
By Rebecca Howard
May 11 (BusinessDesk) - The government announced a new $102 million Tourism Infrastructure Fund alongside $76 million for new and upgraded tourism infrastructure for the Department of Conservation ahead of the 2017 budget.
The Tourism Infrastructure Fund will provide $100 million over the next four years in partnership with local councils and other community organisations, for projects like new car parks, toilets, and freedom camping facilities. The DOC funding will be used to upgrade and develop tourist facilities on conservation land and to expand the great walks network.
The fund is made up of $60.5 million in new money from Budget 2017 and $41.5 million in funds which have been reprioritised from the Tourism Growth Partnership and the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund. Of that, $2 million over four years has been provided to manage the fund.
“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,” said Tourism Minister Paula Bennett.
A massive influx of tourists over the past few years has put immense strain on existing resources and "the industry has clearly told us that infrastructure is their top priority and we’ve responded to that. 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," said Bennett.
The latest data from Stats NZ showed that more than 3.5 million visitors came to New Zealand in the March 2017 year, matching the annual record set in February. In 2016, 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.
Against that backdrop, the aim of the fund is to help communities respond to demand and address capacity constraints.
“Successful projects will demonstrate value for money and be co-funded by applicants, who will need to show that other funding options have been fully exhausted," she said.
Among other things, only publicly-available infrastructure used significantly by tourists is eligible for funding. Projects need to be for new facilities or enhancements. Like-for-like replacement will not be funded. Development of new attractions, accommodation, and commercial activity is not eligible and projects must demonstrate that they do not compete with commercial activities in the region.
The funding for DOC includes $44.6 million of operating funding over four years and $31.3 million in capital. Of that, $23 million is for improving visitor experiences, $11.4 million will be used to improve DOC's online services to the public, $12.7 will be used to expand the great walks network, $5.7 million will be used to develop shorter walks while $19.8 million will be used for upgraded tourist facilities.