Popular tourism attractions Rainbow Springs Nature Park, Agrodome and Hukafalls Jet have shut with potential job losses after falling victim to the drop in tourism as a result of Covid 19.
Ngāi Tahu Tourism announced yesterday afternoon that it will shut tourism operations, with the potential loss of more than 300 jobs across New Zealand.
A joint statement by Ngāi Tahu Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio and Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu kaiwhakahaere Lisa Tumahai announced the impact of Covid-19 had taken a significant toll on the tourism industry, from which Ngāi Tahu Tourism had not been immune.
"Our tourism businesses, alongside the rest of the industry, no longer have any revenue and, even when the industry does eventually re-establish, it is expected to take a long time to recover.
"After a robust analysis and discussions and with heavy hearts, we share with you our intention to close our tourism businesses for the time being."
The decision has resulted in a proposal to significantly downsize the Ngāi Tahu Tourism workforce, with more than 300 staff at all levels potentially losing their jobs.
A media spokeswoman was unable to provide the number of people employed in Rotorua by Ngāi Tahu.
After a full consultation period, a final decision will be made next month.
Proposing the moves was "devastating for us – and certainly something we did not envisage a few months ago".
The business was doing all it could to support those affected and was particularly proud of the whanaungatanga and manaakitanga on display across the organisation in difficult circumstances, the statement said.
At the start of March, Ngāi Tahu Tourism chief executive Quinton Hall told the Rotorua Daily Post the group was anticipating a "tough" few months.
Coronavirus had caused more than 6000 cancellations across the group's 16 businesses nationwide, including the three in Rotorua.
Rotorua-based co-owner and director of tourism and event company MDA Experiences, Tak Mutu, said the closing of the large business operation was a sign of the times.
He said these were big businesses being forced to make these decisions and smaller businesses would need to make similar decisions in the coming weeks.
"They weren't the first ones to make cuts and they won't be the last," he said.
"We all know tourism isn't likely to start up in a meaningful way for the next year or 18 months."
Rotorua Chamber of Commerce chief executive Bryce Heard said it was important industries which could operate in Rotorua, such as forestry and farming, helped the city's economy.
"There'll be a lot more people taking temporary shuts but the question is for how long. How quickly can we get back to normal and how much can we offset the Rotorua damage?"
He said the ultimate solution would be when a vaccination was developed to enable people to move freely again.
On Monday, Rotorua Canopy Tours general manager Paul Button told the Rotorua Daily Post that calling the current situation for tourism in Rotorua "dire" would be putting it lightly.
"This is crippling for the industry," he said.
"We just can't deliver experiences and we can't deliver revenue."
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said it was sad to see another devastating blow to the local economy.
"It can't have been an easy decision and we hope it won't be permanent.
"These are two of our iconic attractions with smart products that we are very proud of locally and they have been important employers of our people."
Chadwick encouraged Ngai Tahu Tourism to link up with Rotorua Economic Development, which was working with businesses as part of the Build Back Better economic recovery strategy.
''Our thoughts right now are with the individuals affected and their families,'' she said.
Rainbow Springs is home to the National Kiwi Hatchery Aotearoa, the leading kiwi hatchery in the world, incubating and hatching more than 130 kiwi chicks each year - 2020 since 1995.
In 2018, Rainbow Springs hosted the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. Two chicks at the hatchery were named Tihei and Koha when they were 3 days old by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle during their Rotorua visit.
Agrodome was a unique farm experience which included a live farm show and a farm tour which catered to an international market.
It also hosted Rotorua's annual A&P show which ran for the 111th time earlier this year.
It was unclear late yesterday what would happen to the animals at the Rotorua attractions.
Ngāi Tahu also owns the Shotover Jet near Queenstown, Franz Josef Glacier Guides, the Dark Sky Project in Tekapo, and was establishing the All Blacks Experience, due to open in Auckland in mid-year in what was the SkyCity Convention Centre.
A Ngāi Tahu media spokeswoman said the business would not make any further comment while undergoing consultation with staff.