Budget tourism boost to help with freedom campers

Budget tourism boost to help with freedom campers

The Government has announced an extra $20 million for the tourism sector to help communities deal with infrastructure problems.

Small towns are under pressure from the growing number of tourists visiting our shores.

Budget tourism boost to help with freedom campers


It is estimated the number of freedom campers relying on public facilities has already reached around 60,000 this year.

Prime Minister John Key says the tourism industry is doing well and the new initiatives will help it grow.

"We recognise that some of our smaller communities need extra facilities to deal with the increase in tourist numbers, and in particular manage freedom campers," he said.

The cash injection will be divided over four years and split into two areas.

Tourism New Zealand's boost includes $2.5 million for new facilities at Te Puia, the New Zealand Arts and Crafts Institute in Rotorua. It will include a new bone, stone and carving school. A tā moko studio and taonga gallery will also be created.

Eighty extra beds will be available at Timber Trail Adventures Limited, the halfway point on the Timber Trail cycleway at Piropiro in Waikato, at a cost of $1.2 million.

Communities can apply to have their particular projects bankrolled, with the Government preferring its contribution be matched dollar-for-dollar. However, Mr Key says that may not always be possible.

"What we're trying to say is for some of these communities, you think the likes of Franz Josef or Fox or Stewart Island or wherever it might be, they have a very small rating base so the capacity for them to deliver the kind of infrastructure you need is often a challenge of them."

What communities could apply for is "open to their imagination", but Mr Key says it could be anything from signage to parking to toilets for freedom campers.

Freedom campers have become a problem for some communities, and the purpose of the fund would go toward providing alternatives.

"Most people will use a toilet if provided. We just need to provide a lot more toilets," says Mr Key.

But while the Government has backed the tourism industry, Lincoln University tourism lecturer Michael Show says there are questions about who should actually be responsible for it.

"One of the difficulties we face as a country is that much of what we provide tourists is free of charge, but not free of cost. How can we provide tourists with the level and quality of infrastructure and services they need, and then convince New Zealand taxpayers and ratepayers to fund it?"

The answer inevitably will involve central and local government, Dr Shone says, but it is also a role for the public sector.

He also suggested putting the cost back onto the tourists, perhaps by using the GST they pay on products in New Zealand which isn't claimed back.

Dr Shone says around $2.5 billion per year is made in GST from tourists.

Mr Key says the idea to charge tourists differently to Kiwis for things like facilities, entry fees and for access to Department of Conservation huts has been brought up with before. He says while it could potentially bring in more money to pay for infrastructure, the problem would be how the extra costs would be administered.

"It becomes one of those things where we want people to go into the DoC estate and enjoy themselves, [and] spending a lot of time identifying whether someone is Kiwi or not strikes me as being quite challenging."

Mr Key says it is likely the Government would contribute more money to help the growing tourism industry in the future if it is needed.