Millions in grants to support 'most vulnerable' South Island regions

Resort staff hours had been slashed, some people were struggling to pay rent and support their...
Half of the plan is targeted directly at the ‘‘most vulnerable’’ South Island regions — Fiordland, Queenstown Lakes, South Westland, Mackenzie District and Kaikoura. Photo: Getty Images
A $20 million fund to support the Queenstown Lakes District’s economic diversification and a $15m fund to help the Milford Opportunities Project transform and protect Milford Sound have been announced by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash this morning.

The funding is part of the $200m Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan to be rolled out over the next two years.

While the overall plan has 12 key points, focusing on investing in small business support, tourism infrastructure, the conservation estate, economic and regional development, mental wellbeing support and Maori development, half of the plan is targeted directly at the ‘‘most vulnerable’’ South Island regions — Fiordland, Queenstown Lakes, South Westland, Mackenzie District and Kaikoura.

Speaking at TRENZ Hui 2021 in Christchurch, Mr Nash said he had previously signalled ‘‘long-term structural change and short-term targeted support’’ needed to prioritise regions and communities which needed the most help.

The ‘‘all-of-government plan’’ would support tourism communities’ recovery and rebuild the industry on a ‘‘more sustainable foundation’’ for the future, he said.

‘‘The economic impact of the loss of international visitors is felt beyond the tourism workforce and businesses.

‘‘Whole communities, especially in five South Island regions, are facing new challenges to their way of life.’’

Simultaneously, reviews by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, the Climate Change Commission and Tourism Futures Taskforce had all highlighted the industry needed to change.

In the report, the Environment Commissioner said it was widely understood that the daily limit at...
Milford Sound will receive $15m of the fund. Photo: ODT files

Outlined for the South Island help was:

  • $4.5m for psychological and social wellbeing support and training
  • $10m in grants for businesses to get expert advice on planning and decision-making in response to Covid ($5000 per business)
  • $10m in grants to help businesses implement the plans and advice ($5000 per business)
  • A $49m kick-start fund so businesses that have gone into hibernation or suspend operations can receive grants to help reopen and resume trading once international visitors return
  • A $20m fund to help support the diversification and reset of the Queenstown Lakes economy by helping develop alternative industries and attracting private sector investment. Potential projects include a digital innovation hub and a film studio.
  • $15m for the Milford Opportunities Project to move to its next phase to protect Milford Sound and create a more sustainable and high-quality visitor experience.

Additionally, Mr Nash announced six longer-term components.

They are:

  • $26m of annual grant funding for regional tourism organisations to manage, plan, promote and market tourism activities in their regions
  • $14m from the 2020 Tourism Recovery Package will be converted to grants enabling 26 inbound tour operators to receive up to $500,000 each*
  • An extra $10m to enable the Department of Conservation to extend the waiver fee for about 1000 operators on public conservation land, who pay a tourism concession fee, for a further six months.
  • $16.5m in the next round of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund aimed at local councils
  • $10m to develop a new ‘Tourism Industry Transformation Plan’ (ITP), in which the Government will work with tourism businesses and the tourism workforce, councils, iwi, researchers and independent advisers to build on recent work by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Tourism Futures Taskforce, Climate Change Commission, and others, to lift industry standards and transform to a more sustainable model.
  • Mr Nash said some Maori tourism businesses had experienced a ‘‘severe downturn’’ with the absence of international visitors and would be targeted for support as well.

That funding would be managed by New Zealand Maori Tourism, which would expand its business support services — the Minister for Maori Development would announce details next month, Mr Nash said.

The Tourism Communities Plan was funded through the Covid-19 Response and Recovery Fund and included about $73m returned and reprioritised from the 2020 Tourism Recovery Package, ensuring value for money and targeted support where was is needed most.

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