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However, one tourism operator believes the "devil will be in the detail" and questions where immigration fits in what Tourism Minister Stuart Nash called an "all-of-government plan" to support tourism communities’ recovery and rebuild the industry on a more sustainable foundation.
Mr Nash unveiled the long-awaited "Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan", totalling $200 million, at TRENZ Hui 2021 in Christchurch yesterday morning.
While the overall plan has 12 key points, half of it, totalling $108.5 million, is targeted at the "most vulnerable" South Island regions — Queenstown Lakes, Fiordland, South Westland, Mackenzie District and Kaikoura.
That includes $15 million for the Milford Opportunities Project to help protect Milford Sound and $20 million to support the Queenstown Lakes’ economic diversification, specifically referencing a digital innovation hub and a film studio as "potential projects".
Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said several film studios were mooted in the district and he was not aware the funding applied to "any particular proposal".
On the digital hub he said it was "early days" and he did not have detail of it yet.
"But it’s a real step in the right direction."
Overall, Mr Boult said yesterday’s announcement would "turbocharge" the work done to date on diversifying the economy and "move us to another level".
Canyon Explorers director and shareholder Adrian Januszkiewicz was pleased the Government had finally recognised the South Island communities were facing critical issues, but was disappointed not to see immigration included in the co-ordinated response.
Mr Januszkiewicz said a "critical issue" for the business, and many others like it, was staffing and that was something which still needed to be addressed.
However, yesterday’s announcement, particularly a $49 million "kickstart fund", was "super-appreciated and necessary".
"The devil, of course, is going to be in the detail, because we don’t really know what that looks like yet."
"Employing people is part of it, but the funding is going to be super-important because people are on their knees and cashflow is pretty weak, or non-existent," Mr Januszkiewicz said.
"If we get a kick-start to spend the money that we have to to get the business going again, that’s going to be hugely important."
Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ruth Stokes said the funding had "the potential to be game-changing", but questioned how the Government would "translate it from an announcement to delivering on the ground".
"It’s taken us a long time to get to this point and hopefully we don’t have too much bureaucracy ahead of us in terms of getting this money distributed."
Great South tourism and events general manager Bobbi Brown said it was a comprehensive package, targeting many parts of the tourism sector and supporting a wide cross-section of the communities.
It would be particularly positive for Fiordland, she believed.
"They are one of the five [regions] in the country that have been the slowest to recover, for a number of reasons."
Southland Mayor Gary Tong was sure the community would welcome the news, but was conscious of criteria.
However, the announcement showed Mr Nash had listened to local residents during his visit to Te Anau in March, he said.
"He’s taken their concerns on board."
— Additional reporting: Laura Smith