Staff speechless over bungy bail-out

New government funding for tourism has enabled AJ Hackett Bungy save 20 jobs it had planned to...
New government funding for tourism has enabled AJ Hackett Bungy save 20 jobs it had planned to cut. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Speechless staff were told 20 jobs were saved yesterday after a $10.2 million Government bail-out for AJ Hackett Bungy.

Managing director Henry van Asch said the funding from the Government’s tourism sector recovery package was a huge relief, and would allow the company to retain key workers, including jump masters, who the company had planned to let go because of Covid-19.

"I know when I told some of my team they were speechless basically. We’re going to have some very happy people in the team, which is really what this company is all about."

He said the cash injection would allow the company to reopen all 13 of its experiences across Queenstown, Auckland and Taupo.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said the money would benefit the whole of Queenstown.

"It is one of those business that is Queenstown and if somebody out of town was conjuring up a vision of Queenstown, AJ Hackett Bungy would certainly be there alongside other businesses.

"People don’t come to Queenstown just to bungy, [but] they might be influenced by that to visit."

He said restaurants, bars, hotels and other operators all gained from bungy surviving.

Mr Boult said he feared some bigger firms would only survive as "walking wounded", so it was "sensible" for the Government to support them to be "strong when the crisis is over".

Mr van Asch echoed the mayor on the wider effect.

"One of the problems is people get here and all the experiences Queenstown is famous for aren’t working or you have to come back [at a specific time], then there’s a problem with that, where people go ‘Oh, Queenstown doesn’t really work any more’."

Had the company not received money from the $400million Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme, it would have hibernated several experiences and let go of or redeployed 90 staff, Mr van Asch said.

As with many other tourism businesses around Otago, the company relied on international tourists and has needed to cut its near $10million annual wage bill.

For the past month it had offered $88bungy jumps and Mr van Asch said although prices would increase, they would remain Kiwi friendly.

He said 20 essential staff, including jump masters who train for two to three years, could now be retained when the wage subsidy expired.

Without these staff, operations would be slow to get going when the border reopened because of the training and safety requirements involved with running the adrenaline-inducing activities.

The company had been in talks with the Queenstown Lakes District Council, the Department of Conservation and the Otago Regional Council about redeploying tourism staff to conservation roles.

The bail-out announced yesterday consisted of a $5.1million grant for the first year and an optional loan of the same amount next year.

"The ideal outcome is the business is working well and we don’t need that loan, but I don’t know, my crystal ball hasn’t been working very well of late."

AJ Hackett Bungy has received the largest individual payout to date from the tourism fund, $1.5million went to Whale Watch Kaikoura, $4 million to Discover Waitomo and $20.2million for regional tourism offices.

Destination Queenstown chairman Richard Thomas said he welcomed the Government support and looked forward to hearing about more funds being awarded to Queenstown businesses soon.

The regional tourism board had itself applied for $1million, which it would use for a domestic marketing campaign.

Mr Boult said this would be more important than ever with the transtasman bubble looking further off than it did last week.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said the Government was "protecting a world-famous tourism asset, as well as the flow-on benefits" it brought to the town.



An expensive government subsidy thanks to our taxes (current/future taxes and inflation). Is $10m for 20 jobs a good investment? Why not give everyone in the country $500,000? The money is all borrowed or printed out of thin air- freebees for all? why not? It is election year after all...

i could use some money now please..please please!

This gift is an insult to all the other kiwi companies using their own resources to make it through the current downturn.
Why on earth does one of the countries most profitable tourism companies (and owners) need any sort of support to retain people who are pivotal to that companies on going success?
Is it unreasonable for Mr Van Asch to dig into his own deep pockets to ensure his future profits are assured? Well no of course not. We can't expect millionaires to pay their own way.
And in the same breath he says thanks to the taxpayers (not) he says well we are going to jack the prices, just not as much as we rip tourists off for.

Mind you, no comment from the company that this taxpayer gift is going to ensure his businesses in Australia, Singapore and elsewhere are also benefiting. If we are going to start supporting foreign workers in other countries maybe we should send some to Qantas. Obviously overseas workers are more important than people such as those at Tuapeka Gold.

And what about Dunedin Railways? Also a major tourist enterprise that brings people from all around the world and has many supporting businesses. As well, the synergistic benefit for other tourism operators in the area.

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