Te Tai Tokerau Northland leaders are backing the push for a kick-start fund for tourism to be spread further around the country and want more direct help following a disastrous lead up to summer.
They say tourism and hospitality businesses had endured months of lack of access to the domestic market leading into the summer season and this disruption to trade will be hard to overcome without support from sources outside the region.
Regional leaders Far North Mayor John Carter, Northland Inc chair Nicole Anderson, and industry leader Riki Kinnaird presented a support request in a meeting with Tourism Minister Stuart Nash and fellow cabinet minister Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis ( a former tourism minister) earlier this month, which included six actions that would support businesses through central government intervention.
Northland Inc supports Tourism Industry Aotearoa's push to extend the $49 million Tourism Kick-start Fund from the five South Island regions it was originally tagged for, to all regions throughout the country, including hard-hit Northland which was in Alert level 3 for longer last year.
The fund was announced in May 2021, and recently activated with the announcements of international borders opening.
Northland Inc Chair Nicole Anderson said the disruption to business due to border closures was felt across the country and this type of support would be well received anywhere.
''This fund is consistent with the request we had tabled with Ministers – our businesses need help, your help, to get through to next season."
Nash has defended the kickstart funding, telling the Herald last week that it is going to regions with higher dependence on international tourists and tourism businesses throughout the country had during the past two years got $600m in direct funding and with hospitality been paid an estimated $4 billion in wage subsidy and other business support.
Northland Inc says it has yet to get a response from the ministers for the request to extend the Kick-start Fund to all regions and a six-point support plan which involves:
Continue the Wage Subsidy payment through to October 2022, to support the continued employment of 3000 Northlanders.
Further financial support for businesses to meet operational costs - A one-off Resurgence Support payment of $3000 per staff member level.
Extend Regional Business Support
Establish a 'Northland Support, Recovery and Re-Set Plan' for much-needed support and re-set strategy - $5000 per eligible business for planning, strategy and implementation.
Funding for a Northland Winter Tourism campaign with vouchers to be redeemed in the region. $5m to fund domestic campaign including 20,000 $200 Northland tourism vouchers – returning an economic impact of $20m.
Extend MSD/MBIE funded course
Extend the current course that has been successfully delivered for the past two years to retain and upskill the tourism workforce.
Implement training schemes
Implement training scheme for Northland based central and local Government employees to learn local stories of people, places, and events at the birthplace of the nation - deliver adult training course as per the new education curriculum and Tai Tokerau Northland Destination Management Plan's focus on dual heritage.
Domestic visitors travelling during school and public holidays have kept the Tai Tokerau Northland tourism and hospitality businesses operating to a certain degree and the international border opening to vaccinated travellers who won't have to self-isolate were welcomed.
Far North Mayor John Carter said now is not the time to become complacent regarding the reality for businesses, stating some support is still necessary while visitor flows settle in over the coming months.
"While we are moving in the right direction in terms of access to market, we don't expect to see a sudden influx of international visitors that will plug the gap for businesses.''
Tourism Industry Aotearoa and is also pushing for the kick-start fund to be broadened beyond the South Island. The Auckland Tourism Regional Forum has also called for a rethink on the funding as the region - the gateway to most international visitors - had been in lockdown longer than any other following border failures and delays to the vaccine rollout last year.
Nash said he didn't underestimate ''the hurt the tourism sector had been through, especially those businesses which pre-Covid had a reliance on international tourists.''
Earlier this month he announced tourism businesses in five South Island regions that existed before the global pandemic are eligible for grants worth two weeks of pre-Covid revenue, between $10,000 and $50,000 each, if they had a 50 per cent drop in annual revenue compared to 2019-2020 levels.
Operators in Fiordland, Queenstown and Wanaka, Kaikōura, the glacier region of Westland and Mackenzie District-Aoraki Mt Cook are eligible for the support.