Government stumps up another $5.5m for tourism infrastructure
An extra $5.5m is up for grabs for new tourism infrastructure as the Government responds to demands for help from local authorities.
Tourism minister Paula Bennett said on Wednesday that the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund would increase from $12m to $17.5m to help pay for toilets, carparks, waste disposal and minor water projects.
But it's a case of rearranging the deck chairs because the money will come from an under-spend on another fund for the development of high quality visitor attractions.
The announcement comes a day after Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) released a survey of 47 councils which showed more than 683 tourism-related projects were in development at a cost of about $1.38b.
The $3m available in the first round of tourism infrastructure grants late last year was over-subscribed by $10m and of the 40 applications received, 14 were approved, mostly toilet blocks.
"The first funding round tested demand for infrastructure support and we've responded accordingly. All original eligible applications will be reconsidered, as well as new applications that meet assessment criteria", Bennett said.
Councils with a small number of ratepayers will get priority and must contribute at least $100,000 to be eligible. Applications close in just under a month.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) chief executive Chis Roberts welcomed the extra funding, but warned another flood of applications would reinforce the need for a more permanent solution for local authorities struggling to build visitor-related facilities.
"When the fund was launched last year, TIA said it wasn't enough to meet the needs of communities around the country.
"Another over-subscribed funding round will confirm that a far bigger infrastructure fund is needed to support the growth of New Zealand's biggest export sector".
TIA is heading a project to make sure the right infrastructure is provided in the right places and Roberts said he expected the findings to be released shortly.
LGNZ also welcomed the boost in funding but chief executive Malcolm Alexander said it still did not address the difficulty small communities had in financing big ticket items such as waste water plants.
Bennett said most of the items on LGNZ's $1.4b "wish list", which included town halls, council facilities, airport runway extensions, airport upgrades and expressways, should not be funded by Government.
"These are either already funded by other areas of Government, are not considered a priority or should be funded by local councils. My priority is to support smaller councils with low rate bases with essential facilities. I am currently working with officials to establish how best to do this", she said.