Government grants $16.5 million funding for Matariki-related tourism infrastructure

The Matariki star cluster.
The Matariki star cluster. Photo credit: NASA

There is $16.5 million of new funding for local communities to build up tourism facilities - with a special focus on Matariki commemorations - up for grabs.

The money is part of a new funding round from the government as the nation prepares for the return of international tourists and increasing numbers of Kiwis returning home, according to Minister of Tourism Stuart Nash.

"We are standing beside local communities to co-fund important tourism infrastructure that many small towns and districts cannot afford by themselves. Applications open today for councils to seek grants through the next round of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund," Nash said

"Tourism is hugely important to the economy. We need quality infrastructure and facilities to enjoy our country. This funding aims to protect and enhance our reputation for offering quality experiences as we get ready to open borders for visitors."

Associate Minister of Tourism Peeni Henare said the funding would have a special emphasis on "physical infrastructure to support Aotearoa's unique new mid-winter public holiday marking Matariki".

"I encourage local councils to put real thought into the infrastructure they want as part of a growing focus on the significance of Matariki. I hope to see them being creative with their applications for funds," Henare said.

"Ideas could involve redeveloping council reserves to include safe stargazing areas with low-impact lighting and shelters. It might see upgraded walkways and interpretative signs around important food-gathering sites for local iwi, like wetlands, historic gardens, forests, rivers and the ocean.

"Matariki will be our first public holiday that recognises Te Ao Māori and will be an occasion that is uniquely ours, starting this year on 22 June. Now is the time to start planning to promote it to the world."

Nash told Checkpoint "What really is important is that when international tourists do come back, let alone as our domestic tourists travel around the country, we have got to have the infrastructure in our communities that allows us to meet the expectations of these tourists.

"I think the vast majority of operators who are still around will be around when tourists come back, and keeping in mind domestic tourism has always been about or over 60 percent of the tourism market and it'll just grow.

"I do acknowledge that there are a number of tourism operators - especially those who have had a pre-Covid reliance on international tourists - that have done it very, very hard, but I think with yesterday's announcement we saw daylight at the end of a rather long tunnel.

"I will give certainty that certainly by the end of March people will have a date (for reopening), but this is something we're working closely on. The prime minister and the minister for Covid-19 response said that Cabinet will be considering this within the next two or three weeks."

He was lobbying to see the border reopen to visa waiver countries before July.

"This is the sector that we have spent the most money on of any in our economy over the last two years."