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Hon Mark Burton: Investment in Tourism - Speech

14 May 2004 - Speech

Grass roots investment in sustainable tourism: Speech to LGNZ Zone meeting

Parliamentary colleagues, Basil Morrison (LGNZ president), Eugene Bowen (Chief Executive, LGNZ), Mayor Michael McEvedy (Zone 5 Chair), Councillor Jeffrey Cunningham (Zone 6 Chair), Mayors, Councillors—good morning and welcome.

Overall, the tourism sector in New Zealand is going so well right now that even my ministerial colleagues are getting tired of hearing good news!

But that’s not to say that we are prepared to rest on our laurels. We have a lot of work ahead of us if we are going to remain world leaders in tourism.

When I became Minister of Tourism four and a half years ago, I made it very clear that this government’s priority was real sustainability for our tourism sector. Since the development of the New Zealand Tourism Strategy 2010, we have consistently worked closely with the sector to resource and improve quality standards at every level.

This is evident in our commitment to Qualmark, allocating extra funding for its expansion across the product spectrum: adventure activities, cultural, and nature experiences to rental car companies, bus and coach operators, museums, tours, retail, cafes and more.

But quality tourism is about more than the products we have on offer. It’s about the care, protection, and, wherever possible, the enhancement of our culture and environments.

And it is also about the communities who host our guests, and the impacts the industry can have on them.

Tourism is an economic powerhouse, contributing nine per cent of GDP and close to 16 per cent of New Zealand’s total export earnings. The sector makes a vital contribution to our economy at the national, regional and local levels, supporting close to one in every ten jobs.

Many of these jobs are in small communities where other employment opportunities can be limited.

However, rapid growth in tourism can place pressures on these very same communities, particularly where rating bases are small.

The investment needed to build water and sewerage infrastructure to meet the needs of visitors can be much higher per capita than in larger cities.

Current forecasts predict that New Zealand will receive an extra 30 million international and domestic visitor nights by 2009.

These visitors will rightly expect effective, infrastructure that delivers hot showers, clean drinking water, and functional toilets, whether they are in Auckland, Wellington, Kaikoura, or Franz Josef.

Last year, a joint Ministry of Tourism and Ministry of Economic Development report found that although visitors are currently paying for their use of water and sewerage infrastructure, some smaller communities may well face difficulties in funding the capital costs of upgrading or replacing these facilities in the future.

Clearly, we must ensure that this vibrant market is sustainable in the regions of New Zealand. If we are to meet our goal of a high quality, high-yield industry, solidly based on quality product, we must have appropriate, quality infrastructure across New Zealand.

That is why Budget 2004 allocates an $11 million investment over the next three years to assist small communities to fund the basic infrastructure necessary to maximise local benefits from New Zealand’s thriving tourism sector.

This represents a significant step towards ensuring support for the small communities that play such an important role in New Zealand’s tourism sector.

Some small communities may be well placed to benefit from tourism growth, but due to the level of capital investment needed in relation to the size of the ratepayer base, they may under-invest in infrastructure.

This can lead to the risk of either losing tourism opportunities or a declining community reputation due to core infrastructure failure.

This initiative, however significant, is only one part of a much larger picture, and there is more work happening right now.

My Ministry is currently working with a number of other agencies on a three-year project to assess the impact of growing visitor numbers on New Zealand’s wider infrastructure.

Strong infrastructure is absolutely essential for continuing economic growth across New Zealand. That’s why the Labour-led government has made other strategic investments, such as roading funding to prepare for the ‘wall of wood’ on the East Coast and Major Regional Initiatives funding sectors such as seafood and forestry.

It’s why we’ve established the Electricity Commission, and why we introduced a regional development category for road funding.

As Minister of Tourism, I am committed to keep working closely with communities and the industry to achieve a truly sustainable tourism sector—one that balances the economic benefits of tourism against the care and protection of all that makes New Zealand special.

I look forward to taking the next steps in achieving this goal, and I take this opportunity to acknowledge the cooperative relationship with LGNZ, and the commitment of many Councils to the development of strong tourism opportunities around New Zealand.

ENDS


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