12 Jun 2017

Mayor calls for more tourism infrastructure support

From Nine To Noon, 9:05 am on 12 June 2017

A South Island mayor is urging the government to spend more on tourism after a survey that suggests frustration with its impact on the country is increasing. 

Backpacker in Wellington.

A file photo of a backpacker: New Zealanders' concerns about tourism include a shortage of carparks and public toilets, Tourism New Zealand says.  Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

The recently released Tourism Industry Association survey showed the number of people who believed tourists put too much pressure on the country had almost doubled in the past two years, to 35 percent.

Last week the government announced it was spending $5.2 million on tourism infrastructure projects across the country.

But Mackenzie District mayor Graham Smith told Nine to Noon tourism was up by 19 percent in his region in 2017, and the government needed to be doing more to support local councils.

"We have asked for [a] visitor tax, but that's been turned down by the government" he said.

Mr Smith said the cost of maintaining tourist infrastructure had fallen to the ratepayers.

But he said he would rather have this problem than not, as tourism was important to the region's economy.

"It's a great problem to have," he said. 

AUT Tourism Research Institute director Simon Milne said the pressure was most obvious in tourist "hot spots".

He said there had even been some cases of confrontation between tourists and residents.

"Waiheke Island is a good example. We are already starting to see residents protesting about the numbers of visitors."

Mr Milne said the government needed to spend more money on developing strategies for communities to deal with increasing tourist numbers.

Tourism New Zealand chief executive Stephen England-Hall said the increasing pressure on infrastructure was the result of a successful tourism industry.

"In general New Zealanders are pretty supportive of tourism... and it's positive effect on the economy," he said. 

The main issues people had were a lack of car parking and toilet facilities, as well as pressure on the environment, he said.