Councils estimate $1.4b bill for urgent tourism infrastructure

Franz Josef is an example of a small town requiring big spending on water treatment to cater for increasing tourist numbers.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

Franz Josef is an example of a small town requiring big spending on water treatment to cater for increasing tourist numbers.

Councils estimate much needed tourism infrastructure will cost nearly $1.4b and have repeated their plea for more funding.

A recent Local Government New Zealand survey of 47 councils identified more than 683 tourism-related projects in development at a cost of about $1.38b.

They include toilets, waste water, access roads, WiFi, parking and freedom camping facilities.

Councils say they need more government help to maintain as well as build public toilets , such as this well-used toilet ...
TETSURO MITOMO/FAIRFAX NZ

Councils say they need more government help to maintain as well as build public toilets , such as this well-used toilet block in Geraldine.

LGNZ president Lawrence Yule said paying for the projects was well beyond the resources of local communities and the survey results highlighted the urgent need to address funding for tourism infrastructure. 

"We just need to get on with it now and these figures provided by just over half of our councils further illustrate the scale at which we need to act. 

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"There is much that could be done to protect and enhance the visitor experience, and provide some relief for our communities, many of which have a small ratepayer base. 

"If we don't act and with the right level of investment, we will be in no position to cope with the forecast growth of tourism – 4.5 million annual visitors by 2025. 'Just in time' infrastructure can mean 'just too late'".

Late last year the first round of grants from a $12m government tourism infrastructure fund was over subscribed to the tune of $10m.

Yule said he supported a system where central and local government and the tourism industry all contributed to a fund that provided for operating as well as capital costs. 

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"So it's not just a burden on ratepayers".

He pointed out that GST from international visitors rose to $1.5b in the year to March 2016, up from $950m the previous year.

"It could be argued some of that needs to be reinvested back in infrastructure as part of the Government's contribution.

Yule said coming up with the right solution was important to ensure tourism was sustainable. 

New Zealand did well out of repeat visitors, but if their first visit was not up to expectations, they may not return, he said. 

"This is something that has crept up on us and the risk to our reputation is very real if we don't get onto it very soon.

"Whatever option is settled on it needs to be well supported by all parties if we are to see a durable solution." 

A report commissioned by four tourism industry leaders last year suggested a 2 per cent bed tax and a $5 increase in the departure levy to raise  $130m annually to help pay for public facilities used by both New Zealanders and overseas visitors.

 - Stuff

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