The tourism industry has been given an urgent $2.5 million cash injection in an attempt to get more Australians choosing New Zealand for their holidays.

This, says Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key, is more than a one quarter increase on the $9 million currently spent on the Australian market and "must be done now" so a marketing campaign could be in order to plan a campaign to be set up for our low season.

Air NZ has responded to the Government's initiative by saying it will match it with $2.5 million of its own money.

Australia generates nearly 40 per cent of our country's tourist arrivals, and even small gains in demand would make a big difference, said Key.

"New Zealand tourism is operating in a very challenging environment because the global economic crisis; however I expect this investment to contribute an immediate injection of around $64 million to the New Zealand economy," he said.

Air NZ group general manager for short haul, Bruce Parton, said the airline was committed to getting international tourists to all parts of New Zealand, not just the main ports.

"We congratulate the Government for supporting the tourism industry and moving at pace to address declining international visitor numbers," he said.

"Following today's announcement, we will work with Tourism New Zealand to maximise the opportunity for growing Australian visitor numbers during the traditionally quieter autumn period for inbound arrivals."

"We are now working through the details of a significant marketing campaign to next month give away more than $2 million in free domestic travel to any of our 27 New Zealand ports when sold in conjunction with a trans-Tasman fare sold in Australia," said Parton.

Air New Zealand is also offering up to 100 free return airfares to the regional tourism organisations to attract Australian media representatives to visit their regions.

"As well as the marketing, we want to see a huge number of travel stories in Australian media over this time telling Australians about all the fantastic places there are to visit in New Zealand," said Parton.

He said it was a unique opportunity for the regional tourism groups to get more visitors.

"With more than $5m being committed by the Government and Air New Zealand we encourage them to reach deep into their own budgets and add to the marketing noise in Australia over this autumn period."

Tourism New Zealand Chief Executive George Hickton says despite a drop off of numbers in some long-haul markets, the Australian market still held potential.

"This additional funding will help profile New Zealand as a holiday destination through the quieter winter months and then in to summer.

"We now have an opportunity to attract Australian visitors to more of our regions as well as appealing to the 'visiting friends and relatives' market that we have not specifically focused on before."

A campaign called "What's On" was originally devised to attract more Australian visitors to New Zealand in the 'shoulder seasons' - autumn and spring.

It was designed to promote travel here by giving Australians more specific reasons to visit New Zealand, encouraging travel during the quieter spring and autumn months and to visit more regions of New Zealand

Last year for the first time it was used to promote travel to New Zealand in summer, and earlier this year was also used to attract early ski bookings.

"The $2.5 million will allow us to run the campaign regularly throughout the year," said Hickton. "But it will not just be used for advertising - we will be working on more opportunities to get Australian media telling stories about New Zealand. We will also be doing further work with the travel trade in Australia to collectively promote New Zealand as the place for Australians to take a holiday."

Australia is New Zealand's largest visitor market supplying almost 908,000 arrivals in the year to January. Over summer, visitor arrivals from Australia rose while those from many other markets declined.

The $2.5 million investment is being allocated across three areas:

Extending the current 100 per cent Pure New Zealand and `What's On' activity in Australia to increase autumn and winter arrivals

Increased public relations activity

Working with industry partners to convert awareness of New Zealand into actual travel

The impact of the global recession was likely to result in New Zealand becoming a more attractive holiday option as Australian consumers tighten their spending and look at holidaying closer to home - this extra money would be specifically targeted to encourage them to choose New Zealand, said John Key.

-CHRIS DANIELS