27 Jun 2020

Struggling tourism-dependent towns get funding boost

6:28 pm on 27 June 2020

The government is setting aside $2 million to accelerate two Rotorua developments to assist with the district's post-Covid recovery.

Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa Rotorua museum

Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa Rotorua museum gets millions for redevelopment. Photo: 123rf

The money which comes from the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) will see the Te Whare Taonga o Te Arawa Rotorua museum upgrade and the building of a new visitor centre getting underway quicker.

Last year, $15m was set aside to redevelop the museum, which will see the building get a new roof.

In 2018, $7m was announced for the Whakarewarewa Forest Project which will see Tokorangi Forest get a new visitor centre.

The additional funding from the PGF will see $2m go towards the museum redevelopment, and an extra $90,000 going towards the visitor centre to get them both underway quicker.

It's hoped the money will lead to more jobs and a revival of the local economy.

"In Rotorua, it was a very exciting reception, and [there was] a lot of appreciation for the fact that we're putting investment into a lot of small projects in this country - not huge financially, but they will make a serious change to the full Rotorua visitor package so to speak," Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said.

The tourism-dependent town has been hit hard by the pandemic and the associated impacts, including the border closures.

A report released earlier this month suggested the town could be in for a 7.8 percent contraction of the economy, with unemployment rising to more than 10 percent.

At the time, Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said the report would help inform council's economic recovery and community support strategies.

"Our district has been hard hit and we still face a lot of uncertainty in terms of what lies ahead so this report will be a useful tool for council and others."

More money on the way for Queenstown

Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis in Queenstown

Jacinda Ardern and Kelvin Davis making the announcement in Queenstown yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

The just-over $2m package for Rotorua comes off the back of a major announcement from the government yesterday, which will see Queenstown on the receiving end of an $85m investment.

The resort town is another that has been hit hard by the border closures, with most of their economy dependent on international travellers.

Of that, $35 million is headed towards town centre redevelopment, and the remaining towards arterial route improvements.

"It's in the provinces that the recovery of our economy is going to happen first," Peters said.

"When tourism comes back on, all these things require us not to stand back and just hope they come without any work, we need to put some serious infrastructure investment in to attract higher quality to us, [to] add more value to our tourism industry."

Totally Tourism owner Mark Quickfall said the redevelopment would lift everyone's spirits.

The company, which runs scenic flights, boat cruises and raft experiences around the South Island, including Milford Sound, Franz Josef and Fox Glacier, and Aoraki Mt Cook, relies on international visitors for 94 percent of their clientele.

"The danger of Queenstown of course, with the downturn of business, [is] we're all a bit nervous we'll see empty shops and a lack of activity, and the place may look a little bit scruffy.

"If we take this opportunity to give it a good facelift, I think it will set us up for many years to come."

He said the decision to waive Department of Conservation concession fees would be much appreciated.

It could mean that the prices of experiences such as hiking along the glaciers, or doing a cruise in Milford Sound, becomes more accessible for New Zealanders, as they don't have to compete with international prices.

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