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Industry Stunned At Department Of Conservation Decision

The Bus and Coach Association is very surprised at the recent decision by the Department of Conservation to reinstate charging commercial tour operators for parking on their land from the 1st January 2022. Particularly when there is still no clarity on when New Zealand’s international border will reopen.

Since March 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and NZ’s closed borders, the parking charge had been waived.

Tour and charter coach operators have lost over 90% of their revenue and 32% of them have closed down forever due to the pandemic. With unfettered domestic tourism looking uncertain over the 21/22 year, the logic behind the Department’s decision to start charging again is difficult to understand.

Tour and coach operators have received no targeted assistance from government. Other broader assistance packages have either been inappropriate for their business or they have not fit the criteria. With no international and very limited domestic tourism, their cashflows are virtually non existent and many have been selling their buses or mortgaging their own homes to survive.

For some operators where domestic tourism only makes up 5%-20% of their revenue, compared with international (80%-95% of their revenue) this cost could not have come at a worse time and many will elect to not run services at all to DOC land. Especially in an environment when planning ahead with any certainty is extremely difficult due to the ongoing threat of travel restrictions, and when there is an uneven playing field around charging (currently bus operators transporting Kiwis will need to pay, but rental vehicles transporting Kiwis won’t – yet both cohorts have already paid for access via their taxes).

Operators need time to recover. New Zealand needs time to recover.

BCA CEO Ben McFadgen said this would be another blow to struggling tourism operators, “when you take into account not just the economic but the mental health toll the lockdowns and border closures have incurred on the tour coach operators, this is another decision made by government that appears to lack empathy and understanding for the very difficult position that New Zealand tourism business owners are currently in.”

The BCA had been in discussions with DOC about extending the waiver to June 2022. Nothing had been heard back until today’s decision.

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