Rotorua tourism leaders say the Government's announcement of more funding for tourism infrastructure is good for the region, but the district's mayor says her council could spend the entire amount within a year.
Minister of Tourism Paula Bennett and Minister of Conservation Maggie Barry made the pre-budget announcement of the Government's new Tourism Infrastructure Fund package of $178 million at Trenz, New Zealand's largest tourism industry expo, at Shed 10 in Auckland yesterday. The new package would do away with the Government's $41.5m Tourism Growth Partnership and Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Fund and sees $60m of "new money" injected into the tourism sector - to be spread over four years.
It includes $76m for the Department of Conservation estate, the development of two new Great Walks and a network of Great Short Walks and Great Day Walks, that could include the loop around Lake Tarawera and upgrades to the Tongariro Crossing.
The fund would be used in partnership with councils, businesses and community groups for projects such as new car parks, toilets, sewerage systems and freedom camping facilities.
The announcement came a day after Tourism Industry Aotearoa released its tourism manifesto for whoever is in power after September's general election with one of the key points in the manifesto being increased funding for tourism infrastructure around the country.
"The fund is about helping communities respond to demand and addressing capacity complaints.
"It will also facilitate future growth in some of our newer tourism regions as well as the main tourist hubs," Ms Bennett said.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick, who will be at Trenz today to attend a meeting of key tourism stakeholders, said the district could "eat up that $60 million of new funding easily ourselves - in fact we could do with $100 million right now".
"We are already engaged with Government about the need for more tourism infrastructure and any money would be welcome.
"Tourism is an ever-increasing pressure on us as a council, but we'll be in there as will everyone else, so that funding won't last long."
She said a possible project could be the redevelopment of the lakefront, "which would cost a lot more than we have in our budget".
Destination Rotorua trade marketing manager Patrick Dault said the funding "was in reality just housekeeping" and a "step back ready for a big leap forward".
"It's obvious to all in the industry that this investment needed to be made and that's good news.
"But, if tourism starts to impede on our locals' way of life then we do have a problem - tourism should be improving our locals' way of life and if there are strains on our infrastructure it affects everyone."
Mr Dault said the extra funding for DoC was excellent news and would accelerate the development of new tourism products or enhance existing ones.
He said the now defunct Tourism Growth Partnership (TGP) helped build new attractions at places like Te Puia and Skyline, but he wondered if opportunities for funding had been fully taken advantage of.
"After all, it is an election year and I don't think enough operators took advantage of the TGP, let's hope it's easy enough to take advantage of this new funding opportunity."
Tourism Infrastructure Fund
- Replaces the Tourism Growth Partnership and Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Fund
- Will inject $60m of "new money" into tourism infrastructure
- Total funding of $178m, split into two areas
- $102m for tourism infrastructure spread over four years
- $76m for Department of Conservation estate spread over four years
- Councils, businesses and community groups will need to apply for partnership funding
- Will only be approved if all other avenues for alternative funding have been exhausted
- Used for new car parks, toilets, sewerage systems, freedom camping facilities, upgrades of existing facilities
- Two new Great Walks to be funded by DoC
- Development of Great Day Walks, including around Lake Tarawera, Tongariro and in Taranaki