8 Nov 2016

Councils brace for summer tourism boom

9:04 am on 8 November 2016

Councils around the country are bracing to see how their infrastructure will cope in tourist hotspots, with what is expected to be one of the busiest summers for tourism.

The Church of the Good Shepherd, Tekapo.

Popular tourist spot Tekapo needs new public toilets at a cost of nearly $1 million, Mackenzie District mayor Graham Smith says. Photo: 123RF

Infrastructure funding is expected to be one of the main issues discussed by industry leaders and operators at the Tourism Industry Aotearoa's summit in Wellington on Wednesday.

The summit comes as councils wait to hear whether their bids were successful for their share of a $12 million fund, announced by the Tourism Minister John Key earlier this year.

Mackenzie District mayor Graham Smith said he was excited about the coming influx of tourists, but there were some issues, mainly in the tourist hot spot of Tekapo, where it is 80 percent booked for the summer already.

Mr Smith said the council has signed off two new sets of toilets there, costing $950,000, that the district needed to cope with growing visitor numbers.

"One way or another we have to have those toilets in place. We've gone ahead, we desperately need them this summer. We can not wait for the government to fund us."

He said if the council was not successful with its funding bid it would mean that some other work in the district would have to be put back a year.

"They're very slow at releasing this funding and it seems we have to jump through a lot of hurdles."

Golden sunset at Curio Bay, the Catlins, New Zealand

Curio Bay in the Catlins, Southland. Photo: 123RF

Venture Southland Tourism and Events manager Warwick Low said there was pressure in places there had not been before.

In particular, the Scenic Southern Route in the Catlins was attracting 500 visitors a day, something that the existing facilities were not designed for, he said.

"That's where the pressure tends to be, the holiday spots, the Curio Bays of the world, a bit out of the way that were never intended to have hundreds of visitors a day and now they're starting to see that."

Lincoln University professor of Tourism David Simmons said there is no doubt there was massive pressure in some areas.

He said those regions with high-tourist volumes with a small ratepayers base were under the gun at the moment.

"I think there'll be ... pressure points, some of it may be on physical infrastructure, roads and parking lots or camping sites. It may bubble over to private sector activities such as accommodation stock."

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said it was the pace of change that is catching people out and some communities were struggling to adapt.

"When you've got 25, 30 percent more visitors in some regions than they had just two years ago, that changes the whole scene at those peak times.

He said people should not think that a fund to build some toilets or carparks was the complete answer.

"We definitely do need investment in infrastructure, we're not in any panic situation, we're coping, we'll cope this coming summer.

"But clearly if this growth is going to continue we're going to need more tourism-related infrastructure across New Zealand."

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which is overseeing the allocation of the fund for infrastructure projects, said it did not have a firm timing for the announcement - but it would know soon.

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