Rotorua's Covid-19 bruised and battered tourism and hospitality sector needs more than the potential promise of financial support in this year's Budget to help recover, industry leaders say.
Andrew Wilson, interim chief executive of Rotorua Economic Development, said tourism businesses depending on high visitor volume and the international market had suffered from Covid-19 more than others.
"We know they continue to face incredible challenges and are working phenomenally hard to support their staff, pivot and seek out opportunities outside of the business-as-usual to stay afloat and prepare for a return of international tourists".
International tourism contributed to about 40 per cent of Rotorua's visitor spend.
Wilson said he hoped, that in addition to the $200 million recovery and reset package already earmarked for tourism, he would see strong investment into addressing Rotorua's housing issues.
"The impact of these issues span the entire housing spectrum and have far-reaching implications for all industries here in Rotorua including tourism."
Ultimately, the local industry needed "continued collaboration with Rotorua Lakes Council, iwi and agencies acknowledging the need for an all-of-government approach to addressing the wider issues that impact our tourism industry and our community as a whole", he said.
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty branch president Reg Hennessy, who also owns Hennessy's Irish Bar in Rotorua, echoed Wilson's concerns.
"We need more than financial help. We've gone past that now. It's not so much financial support but support in common sense – immigration stuff, helping clean up Rotorua which has an absolutely disgusting problem, and increases in wages – which I'm not against. They are three pretty big issues that you have to take into account."
Hennessy said Covid-19 had made business tough enough but recent Government changes made things even harder for operators. Rotorua's homelessness issue exacerbated things even more so, he said.
This week the Government announced a reset of New Zealand's immigration system, restricting an employer's ability to hire a migrant so temporary workers were only recruited for genuine job shortages.
The move was considered to be part of a shift from relying on low-skilled workers to attracting those with higher skills, who were expected to receive a higher salary.
"They need to be a little bit careful of the costs on small businesses with tourism and hospitality,' Hennessy said.
"We are in one of the toughest times of our lives yet we have to put out more and more in wages. I understand why but you sort of have to be practical when you set these things up."
Asked whether he felt local tourism and hospitality businesses had been overlooked, Hennessy replied "of course they have".
"We've all got to learn to stand on our own two feet and I understand the Government can't keep propping businesses up but we need common sense around wages, immigration and Rotorua. You can't have people walking around some streets with mental health issues past a family of four from Sydney.
"I'd love to see some common sense come out of this Budget to help tourism and hospitality going forward."
Rotorua businessman Nick Berryman said the cost of running a business and "over the top" regulations had got so tough he didn't want to do it anymore.
"I just don't want to be part of it and that's a really sad thing for someone who has been in business for so many years. It wears you down as an employer. It really wears you down."
But he questioned whose responsibility it was to look after business owners.
"The world inflicted Covid on us, the Government didn't. The Government didn't create it, so do they have to bail us out?
"This is the industry I've chosen to be in and it's going through tough times."
Berryman had to close his jet boat tourism business Riverjet in March after it became a casualty of Covid-19.
"I had $5000 to $7000 going out every week just for staff at Riverjet and not $500 coming in.
"It was the only sensible thing to do to shut the doors."
Meanwhile, his other tourism business Lakes Lodge Okataina was open but Berryman said he felt a "huge pressure emotionally, financially and physically".
"It's a battle."
He pushed through to be able to pay his mortgage.
"We've all got to have a purpose. But I used to have a business and now I have a job.
"We have to become a slave to our business because we can't afford the extra staff to help run it."
He did not know what the Government had in store for tourism businesses this Budget.
Reopening the borders was the only way tourism operators could have a sustainable business model, he said.
"Tourism is miles off, absolutely miles away."
Rotorua Budget Advisory Services manager Pakanui Tuhura also wanted housing addressed - not necessarily with more money but more control of the market plus construction of affordable housing.
"The cost of living is starting to outstrip household income and a lot of this is due to the increasing cost of accommodation."
He said the previous Budget was "quite successful" in softening the impacts of Covid-19, giving breathing room to form longer-term support for business and employment, but it didn't address the underlying issues of the housing crisis.
"As the homeless and emergency housing figures go up, I wonder if they are just the tip of the iceberg as many families start to share houses just to pay the rent and mortgage."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said they wanted to see more done to address the basic causes of some economic problems "rather than focusing on the effects".
Heard gave some examples as building more houses, creating more jobs, creating new and more effective ways of getting people into employment, and supporting sectors that are performing well such as farming, forestry, and forestry.
Wairiki MP Tamati Coffey was approached for comment.
- additional reporting Cira Olivier