'Not just about tourism': $5m boost to aid Glacier Country

A deserted Franz Josef street with accommodation providers during the current alert level 2...
A deserted Franz Josef street with accommodation providers during the current alert level 2 restrictions. Photo: RNZ
Development West Coast has committed $5 million towards an assistance package for communities in and around Franz Josef and Fox Glacier.

A recent survey revealed widespread job losses, significant losses of core emergency and community service volunteers and that at least 23% of people have left.

The community sent a nearly $35 million wishlist to Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, who ruled out funding the entire request.

Development West Coast chief executive Heath Milne said more than 1000 people living on the West Coast had built lives and families in the area with many volunteering in the small communities.

Before Covid-19, Glacier Country contributed about $120 million per year to the country's GDP.

The survey forecasts that without further support, 84% of jobs will be lost, 67% of businesses will close and at least 31% of people will leave the community in the next six months.

"When we come out of this situation, and international tourists return, if that community isn't there to host them it is going to have an impact on the whole country," Milne said.

"The true value of Glacier Country goes far beyond its significant economic contribution.

"The conversation is not just about tourism - it is about the community. It is about the teachers, builders, electricians, and the volunteers providing fire and emergency, ambulance and search and rescue services. This is about the social fabric of the area.

"The community down there will not survive unless there is some form of support."

Development West Coast has committed $5 million towards an assistance package.

"The focus of the assistance will be decided after consulting with the community facilitated through the Glacier Country Tourism group.

"The group will liaise with the wider community over the coming week to get input as to the best way to utilise the funding to the benefit of the whole Glacier Country area," Milne said.

"Given the gravity of the situation in the Glacier Country, we believe there is still a good opportunity for Government to work with local communities to help protect their social and economic fabric, and ensure they are ready and able to significantly contribute to the national economy once again when it rebounds."

During a recent visit, Nash confirmed a support package was being worked on which he hoped would go to Cabinet by the end of the month.

However, he would not be pushed on how much, what the support would target, when funding may be on the ground, or where the funding would be directed.

The current package was for an amount that would need to go to Cabinet for sign-off, he said.

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