Rotorua's tourism industry has received a multimillion-dollar boost from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund as it feels the effects of Covid-19.
New Zealand First deputy leader Fletcher Tabuteau today announced the Government would invest $17 million into tourism, health and wellbeing in the city.
The funding includes $8m for a purpose-built new facility for QE Health and $9m to help Pukeroa Oruawhata Group develop Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa.
"This PGF support comes at a crucial time as the Government takes decisive action to protect people and their jobs from the effects of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
"It ensures job security for New Zealanders, it is a reminder that we need to be ready when the world recovers from the effects of Covid-19," Tabuteau, who is also the regional economic development under-secretary, said.
"The $8 million ... is enabling QE Health to move from its existing premises that is no longer fit for purpose, enabling a new purpose-designed facility to be built.
"Working in partnership with the Government's $12.1 billion COVID-19 economic package, this PGF support will provide much-needed job certainty and security for the 75 existing employees at QE Health, enable the continuation of its health and well-being services, and to facilitate its business diversification and growth in the future.
"The $9m support from the PGF for the Wai Ariki Hot Springs and Spa, will support the construction of a purpose-built luxury health and wellness spa on the same site, owned by Pukeroa Oruawhata Trust."
QE Health has a 76-year history in Rotorua and was originally used for rehabilitation and care for injured soldiers returning from World War II.
It now offers services including cancer recovery, accident rehabilitation, clinical psychology and social work.
QE Health chief executive Aaron Randell said it was "very exciting news" during what has proved to be trying and testing times, giving their business and the community hope.
He said the funding showed staff how valuable their work has been and offered them and the business certainty for the future.
"There is a lot of uncertainty around jobs and people's future so for us, it does give us certainty about planning for the future."
He said the investment was part of a bigger picture to show there was investment happening in Rotorua.
"It should give confidence to the community."
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said the funding was "fantastic news".
She said it was timely in light of the uncertainty ahead of us which translated as jobs being kept and more work for our locals, both during the construction phases and beyond.
"I'm very pleased that we have been able to save QE Health, this is very significant and has taken a lot of hard work to demonstrate to Government the value of its place in our local health and wellness sector which adds to our offering in Rotorua," she said.
"Pukeroa Oruawhata's project also falls into that category so it's a great boost and I congratulate QE and Pukeroa on their successful applications to this fund."
Destination Rotorua chief executive Michelle Templer shared Chadwick's excitement and said it was a sign of the Government and private sector investor confidence in the long-term future of the city.
"Now is the right time for quality development projects that strengthen our destination and it is great to see that reflected in today's announcement," she said.
She said the facilities would be "wonderful assets" for those who visit, live and work in Rotorua.
It would "reinforce Rotorua's position as the natural spa and wellness capital of New Zealand."
Luxury tour company MDA Experience's co-owner, Tak Mutu said any investment in the city was amazing during a time most people stopped investing.
"We're going to head into a particularly rough patch with a double-whammy we've never seen before which is Covid-19 plus a global financial crisis," he said.
"To see people still investing in our town is an amazing thing and I think it will only be a positive for us ... the whole of Rotorua."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard welcomed the money "with open arms".
"It's good that people are already starting to think beyond this immediate issue of Covid-19, because we will come out the other side of it, there is a future," he said.
"We will survive, we will carry on business and we will get back to normal."
He said there would always be mixed views on the way taxpayer money was used but he said he welcomed the fact money was coming in.
"It's looking beyond the immediate problem."
Tabuteau said both the businesses aimed to attract domestic and international tourists "while offering health and wellness services that utilise the region's unique geothermal waters".
"These combined PGF investments are about building foundations for success. We know that Rotorua is one of New Zealand's leading tourism destinations and that we will pass through the challenges that Covid-19 presents us."
Tabuteau encouraged people to look at opportunities in the domestic market and "maximise growth and jobs as the world starts travelling again".
Plans for a $30m luxury spa centre at the Lakefront were originally announced in September 2017. It will be next to the council's $40m Lakefront development jointly funded by the council and the Government's Provincial Growth Fund.
Tabuteau said, "while this is the same project, many elements have changed since 2017 and for any points of clarification, we suggest you discuss with the applicant".