14 Aug 2019

Visitor levy to fund kākāpō support plans

6:41 pm on 14 August 2019

The tourism industry has welcomed the unveiling of the first 10 projects to receive funding from the country's new $35-a-head international visitor levy.

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park.

About $3m will go towards developing options for the future management of Milford Sound. Photo: AFP

The government has revealed its initial investment of about $18 million for the year, including funding for Kākāpō recovery, managing the West Coast as a destination and preventing wildlife smuggling.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said the projects had been chosen for quick runs on the board that meet tourism priorities.

The biggest winner is an online jobs platform project from Tourism Industry Aotearoa and Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED).

It receives part of the $5.2m earmarked to promote tourism as a career.

ATEED general manager Steve Armitage said the funding would help encourage more people into the tourism workforce.

"It's no secret that the industry - although there's been some discussion around the number of visitors starting to soften - there is still huge demand for talent to come into our sector," Mr Armitage said.

"Part of the problem that we've found and one of the reasons why we needed to move down the path of developing Go With Tourism is that young people's perception of careers in tourism were pretty negative."

An estimated 40,000 new tourism workers will be needed to plug the predicted labour shortages by 2025.

While the platform is Auckland based at present, Mr Armitage said the funding would help it become part of a wider nationwide solution.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa, chief executive, Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts. Photo: SUPPLIED - TIA

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said he was pleased funding was already being earmarked.

"There was always the danger that the money would sit there with projects not underway quickly so I think the government's taken a wise decision to get some investment-ready projects underway as quickly as possible," Mr Roberts said.

"By partnering with ATEED and Go with Tourism, which is ready to roll out across the country, we can quickly implement the package of initiatives aimed at firstly educating New Zealanders about opportunities to work in tourism and then creating bridging opportunities into the industry."

About $3m will go towards developing options for the future management of Milford Sound.

Air Milford operations manager Antony Sproull said overcrowding was a big issue, with about a million tourists a year through the iconic destination.

He remembered studying tourism in Queenstown back in 2001 when it was hitting its first million visitors in a year.

"The infrastructure there had facilities, had a terminal building, a fantastic airport, roading networks that were suitable [for] a million, but Milford Sound does not have any such facilities. The only thing of course is a boat dock centre there which is obviously adequate at this stage, but for a million people it's not going to be adequate," he said.

Mr Sproull welcomed today's announcement, but said he wanted stakeholders to have more of a say in where the funding would go.

Mr Davis said the levy advisory group charged with shaping where the funding went should be announced shortly.

The long term investment plan is expected to be revealed in October.

The 10 projects to receive funding are:

  • $3m to develop, consult on, and test options for the future management of Milford Sound/Piopiotahi
  • $5.2m to improve awareness and perception of tourism and careers in the industry while encouraging people into the workforce
  • $3.9m to advance the planning of a resilient long-term approach to destination management in Westland
  • $0.3 to begin planning Arthur's Pass to ensure it provides a world class visitor experience
  • $1.5m to develop a long-term sustainable management approach for kākāpō, and establish three new habitat sites
  • $0.8m to prepare to eradication pests from Maukahuka - Auckland Island
  • $0.5m to test ways to manage pests and restore land at Te Manahuna Aoraki
  • $1.2m to make Ruapekapeka Pa a drawcard for visitors, functioning as a hub connecting other Land Wars sites in the region.
  • $0.6m to fund a trial to improve visitor safety at Tongariro National Park
  • $1.7m to prevent wildlife smuggling, trade and the importation of banned items

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs