Up-and-down occupancy rates and quarantine hotels were among the topics thrown at National leader Todd Muller when he met with tourism leaders in Rotorua today
Tourism leaders did not hold back, expressing concerns around a "detonated" events industry, freedom camping and other topical issues.
Todd McClay, who has been Rotorua's MP for more than a decade, joined his party leader Muller, who is also the MP for the Bay of Plenty.
Speaking at Rotorua's Heritage Farm, both McClay and Muller voiced concerns about the sector.
Muller heavily criticised the Government for its border operations and the lack of a plan for future opening.
He said the travel and tourism sectors were suffering and the Government was borrowing money for projects with little economic return.
"We want to start reconnecting with the world."
Muller said he would have a strategic plan to get the country rolling again with "financial discipline".
He said if the borders were opened it needed to follow a strict, carefully managed process.
He said National had no intention of raising taxes as a way of handling the economic situation.
Bruce Thomasen, from Redwoods Treewalk, said he wanted a strong estimate of the number of New Zealanders overseas who were still left to come back.
He said he was aware of local hotels being taken up for "several months" with demand exceeding supply.
He wanted money pumped into the "detonated" events industry as it was the best way to "drive visitation" to the city, he said.
He said there were a good 300 people coming out of isolation every fortnight but it was near impossible to keep those visitors here.
"They just want to get home."
Quest Rotorua director Glenn Tasker said he had been approached by the Defence Force twice about using his accommodation for returning travellers to isolate.
He said he rejected them but felt like there was a major "undersupply" and the whole thing was tarnishing the city's brand.
Muller backed up McClay's negative view on people quarantining in Rotorua as a tourist town.
He said the reports of quarantine escapees were knocking the Rotorua community's confidence and the process needed to be better managed.
Holiday Inn general manager Kent Breeze said he wanted support when it came to managing insecure occupancy rates.
He said during holidays and long weekends they were full, but on the off days they were operating at only 12 per cent.
This was a huge strain when it came to managing staff numbers and staying above water.
Muller acknowledged the "incredibly tough" position providers were finding themselves in and turned it back to boosting local events to fill the off-peak.
Many local accommodation providers wanted something done about offshore booking agencies taking huge cuts of income when locals booked with them.
One provider said it was becoming "impossible to compete".
After the tourism meeting, Muller and McClay visited Patchell Group director Ian Patchell to discuss how the business was coping. They then met with business leaders about the Covid-19 recovery.
In the afternoon, they met with about 40 other Rotorua business owners at Distinction Hotel.
One attendee asked the pair about the future of apprenticeship training sites and resources.
Muller said the connectedness between training organisations such as Toi Ohomai and their communities was essential.
He opposed the Government's plans to centralise industry training in Wellington, and said it would be "stripping all local control".
One businessman said all polytechs were "a waste of time" but Muller disagreed.
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce president Bryce Heard asked how National would reconcile climate change threats with primary sector production.
Muller argued that the reason New Zealand had high emissions per capita was because of our low human population and high number of ruminant animals.
He disagreed with "taxing farmers into remission" and said the Government needed to work better with the sector and focus on applying technology.
"I am a firm believer that farmers are able to farm within environmental limits."
"We can improve, over time, our water quality and also improve our production," he added.
A small manufacturer said accessing the Government-led small business loans had seemed "impossible" during the Covid-19 downturn.
Muller said banks had been "quite brutal" over the loans, which went against "the whole point".
National's GST-refund policy would be used to help small businesses if the party got into government, he said.
Scion chief executive Julian Elder asked about the future of border control in New Zealand.
Muller said there needed to be a "sensible conversation around what the criteria will need to be in other countries and New Zealand".
"Let's at least have a conversation ... but they [the Government] simply won't share."
He also believed a "track and trace" technology solution would come from the private sector, not government agencies in Wellington.
One attendee stood up at the end of the gathering to thank Muller for visiting after a "s***" couple of weeks.