11 Jun 2020

Small tourism businesses ask for DOC fee relief

10:02 am on 11 June 2020

Small tourism operators using Department of Conservation land say they have had to continue paying various fees despite losing nearly all their visitors.

Tourist trekking on Rangitoto volcanic island in Auckland, New Zealand.

Tourist at Rangitoto Island in Auckland. Photo: 123rf

Businesses who use DOC land say they are struggling to come up with the funds.

At the same time, the government is spending $400 million on a Tourism Recovery Fund to support businesses struggling in the wake of the pandemic.

Mary Hobbs and her husband Charlie operate glacier tours and a cafe at Aoraki Mt Cook National Park. They are asking for DOC to waive all fees till borders reopen.

"Our clientele for all our adventure activities has been cut pretty much 100 percent. DOC still wants all of their fees," Mary told Morning Report.

"We consider this as absolutely unfair and it is lacking in compassion and kindness ... it is not the message that is coming from the government. We need a little hand here.

"To get the real feel of the heart and soul of New Zealand you need these small operators."

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage told Morning Report most of the concession fees depended on activity so if tour companies were not operating their fees would be "zero or very low".

At Aoraki Mt Cook National Park, DOC is equivalent of a local council that provides waste and rubbish collection and sewage services. "So they pay a fee for that."

She said operators also had to pay monitoring fees when "monitoring is done ... to ensure there is a level playing field for everyone".

DOC was looking at waiving activity fees while the borders were still closed, she said.

Sage said in addition to the wage subsidy there was the tourism recovery fund.

"There are about 100 operators that have approached DOC asking for some fee relief. The department has given people a month's grace. We are looking at that whole issue of the activity fees where people are taking guided walks and aircraft.

"I'm working on potentially waiving the concession activities that operators would normally pay for their clients while the borders are closed."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs