13 May 2016

$12m to help regions cope with tourist influx

7:16 pm on 13 May 2016

A new $12 million fund to help communities with small tourism infrastructure projects is no 'silver bullet', a local tourism leader says.

John Key at Tourism Industry Aotearoa's conference in Rotorua.

John Key at Tourism Industry Aotearoa's conference in Rotorua. Photo: RNZ/ Sharon Brettkelly

The Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, John Key, made the announcement this morning at the TRENZ tourism conference in Roturua. He said the fund would be allocated over the next four years to help towns cope with the surge in tourists and travellers such as freedom campers.

He said the councils were expected to match the funding dollar for dollar.

"We recognise that some of our smaller communities are finding it hard to deal with the increase in tourist numbers," he said.

"They want to provide a great tourism experience but they need extra facilities to cope."

Venture Southland tourism manager Warwick Low said the fund would be snapped up quickly.

"It's a commitment to recognising it's a challenge. Silver bullet? Probably not quite yet."

Mr Low said Southland has a small ratepayer base to match the funding dollar for dollar but the council will find the money.

caravan, camping

Photo: RNZ / Michelle Cooke

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray, who is in Rotorua for the TRENZ tourism industry conference, said the prime minister's announcement was a good start - but the devil would be in the detail.

He said it had been a good year for tourism in Kaikoura and that had helped buffer the town from the closure of the Fonterra cheese factory with the loss of 20 jobs.

Southland mayor Gary Tong said tourism was a big earner for the region, but it did put pressure on facilities - and that was tough on ratepayers.

He said the funding would be hotly contested, but everyone was keen to work with the government to ensure visitors had a good time in New Zealand.

Mr Key said a working group, which would include representatives from the sector, will help set up the application process and funding criteria for these grants.

"For some of these communities ... they've a very small rating base. So the capacity for them to deliver the kind of infrastructure that we need, off their rating base, is often a challenge for them," Mr Key said.

Another $8m will go to Tourism New Zealand to target key growth markets.

The total $20m over four years being allocated in the 2016 Budget is in addition to the $130m the government is already spending.

$8m to tap into India and US markets

New government funding to lure more visitors from India and the United States recognises the sector as a driver of economic growth, Tourism New Zealand said.

Mr Key confirmed an additional $8m over four years for the agency to target these key markets.

Its chief executive, Kevin Bowler, said extra marketing activity will kick off immediately to capitalise on newly announced air services - which are expected to result in a 30 percent increase in seats between the United States and New Zealand.

American Airlines and United Airlines - in an alliance with Air New Zealand - are starting direct services to New Zealand, alongside Air New Zealand's existing services from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Houston.

Mr Bowler said this comes on top of already strong growth, with arrivals from the United States already up nearly 12 percent for the year to March and Indian tourist numbers up just under 14 percent in the same period.

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