Govt eyes tourism contribution in Budget


The tourism sector is set to bag some cash for much-needed infrastructure upgrades to combat freedom campers.

The bill is currently being picked up by ratepayers, but all signs point to a tourism funding boost come Budget day. 

Tourism is growing but with growth comes growing pains.

Freedom camping is one of the most obvious -- blamed on a lack of infrastructure, like toilets.

And the industry says it's putting our reputation at risk.

"It's far wider than a few carparks and toilets," says Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts.

"It's the pressures that are coming on infrastructure around the country and most keenly felt in small communities."

The cost of dealing with freedom campers are mainly picked up by ratepayers but now the taxpayer looks set to help, with an announcement expected in the Budget.

"I thought it was a pretty good idea that the Government might want to be a bit supportive of that principle and do something for local councils," says Prime Minister John Key.

"They have an advocate in the Minister of Tourism...but you'll just have to wait and see if there's anything in the Budget," says Finance Minister Bill English.

The tourism sector is on track to be our biggest export -- currently it accounts for 17 precent of total export earnings, sitting just behind dairy, which makes up 19 percent.

Growth in the tourism industry is huge. Overseas visitors spent $9.6 billion in New Zealand last year -- 31 percent more than they did the year before.

And Mr Roberts is calling for an infrastructure fund made up of taxpayers' money that councils could bid for. 

"Anything is more than we have at the moment but a $50 million to $100 million fund that can take applications that can assess the best projects, that would seem to make sense."

But Mr Key is playing down expectations.

"That would be an awful lot of toilets," he says.

The Budget is now five weeks away.

The tourism sector needs help and the hints from the Prime Minister are clear -- they will get more money, it's just a question of how much.