Hospitality businesses fear they won't be viable if tourist numbers drop, as they worry about a proposed $1.8 million cut to Hawke's Bay Tourism funding.

The proposed cut to the agency's funding is included in the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's Long Term Plan, with its five-week consultation period beginning this week.

The cut to Hawke's Bay Tourism funding would mean a rates reduction of 1.6 per cent. Of the LTP's proposed 19 per cent rate rise in the next financial year, 13.8 per cent is to focus on environmental priorities.

Read more: Hawke's Bay Tourism funding cut proposal could be costly to region
Proposed funding cut to tourism body slammed by Hawke's Bay mayors
Tourism spending in Hawke's Bay up six per cent in past year


While there has been acknowledgement of the need for the environment to be a focus, those in the tourism industry have expressed concern millions of dollars could be lost over time as a result of the proposed cut.

Napier's Bistronomy chef and owner James Beck said the agency greatly supported the region's hospitality sector, so a cut to its funding could "seriously affect" local businesses.

"Summer here in Hawke's Bay is what really makes it worthwhile for us as a business," Mr Beck said. "We do get great support from locals but it's the tourism that actually makes it viable to run a business and employ staff."

His former Hastings cafe, Taste Cornucopia, and Bistronomy had received support from the agency "since day one", Mr Beck said.

It was in large part due to Hawke's Bay Tourism the now highly praised Napier restaurant had received national attention so quickly – such as through the F.A.W.C! events which the restaurant had been involved with since the beginning.

"There's so much going on in Hawke's Bay that's related to tourism, and I think we're competing with the rest of the country for that tourist dollar," he said.

"I think it would be a great shame if that funding was cut".

Clearview Estate co-owner Helma van der Burg said she opposed any reduction in support of tourism in the region, because there were enormous benefits, in "obvious and also trickle-down ways".

Tourists were a "huge part" of Clearview's business, she said. It won two accolades at the 2017 Hawke's Bay Tourism Awards, including the overall Supreme Award.

The region's visitor numbers had been "completely turned around" by "realistic" council funding, and the team at Hawke's Bay Tourism, she said.

"We have become a world-class visitor destination [and] experience and our season has broadened its calendar and demographic with the cycle trails, cruise ship visits and the brilliance that is F.A.W.C!.

"We must stay at the top of the game, competing with other regions, maintaining local employment opportunity at all levels for our children."

Council chair Rex Graham said it wanted to devote more funding to solving issues with the environment, which would be good for tourism - one of Napier's most popular waterways was recently closed for a month because of water-quality issues.

On concerns about the effect a funding cut would have on businesses, Mr Graham said, "There's a pretty good argument to say they should be responsible for their own promotion.

"They are the biggest industry in Hawke's Bay, and are they telling us they can't fund a small part of their own promotional programme?"

He said the council agreed the agency had achieved beyond its key performance indicators, but most councillors thought, "We've spent the money, now it's time for the tourism industry to balance the costs."

Yesterday Napier MP Stuart Nash said he had "real concerns" about the proposal, given Hawke's Bay was renowned for its tourism.

"I like the fact we are building resilience in other areas but Napier's a tourist town, Hawke's Bay's a tourist province. We have some unique offerings - the Art Deco Festival, F.A.W.C! events - it is really important that we get this right."

Mr Nash, who is the Minister for Small Business, said the region's tourism ventures were not big enough to do their own national and international marketing.

He approved of the council concentrating on its core responsibilities, but suggested the regional rate, or levy, could be collected by another agency.

Hawke's Bay Tourism general manager Annie Dundas could not be reached for comment.