A $178 million infrastructure package to fund new toilets, carparks and freedom camping facilities in New Zealand has been announced by Tourism Minister Paula Bennett ahead of this year's Budget.
The Tourism Infrastructure Fund will provide $102 million over the next four years, while $76 million is going towards developing the Department of Conservation's tourist facilities.
"This funding increase means DoC can upgrade and develop tourist facilities and expand the great walks network," Conservation Minister Maggie Barry says.
"Increasingly people enjoying New Zealand's parks and conservation areas want activities that can be done in a day or less. Great Day Walks and Great Short Walks will give people more choices.
"Along with the Paparoa Great Walk these new Great Walks will mark the first expansion of the network in around 25 years," Ms Barry says.
Overseas visitor numbers are set to reach 4.5 million a year by 2022.
But the funding announcement has been slammed as "meagre" by the Green Party.
"Paula Bennett's tourism fund is mostly a rehash of existing spending with a small top up. In total, it's less than a quarter of the $100-$150 million the tourism industry says is needed every year," Green Party co-leader James Shaw says.
"Tourism will become a poisoned chalice for the country if the Government doesn’t make up for its massive underinvestment in basic infrastructure like wastewater, sewage and public toilets."
"The extra funding for DoC for tourist facilities is welcome, but it does not address the serious funding shortfall for the most critically important areas of DoC's core work - conservation and the protection of threatened species like kiwi, kea and tuatara."
In its 2016 Tourism Infrastructure Summary report, the Tourism Industry Association said: "We estimate up to $100 million - $150 million per year over the next decade could be required to ensure the new generation of New Zealand’s tourism infrastructure is 'future ready'."
The DoC funding package includes:
- $23 million for improving visitor experiences throughout New Zealand.
- $11.4 million for improvements to DoC's online services to the public and introduce more customer focused technology and a new booking service.
- $12.7 million towards the expansion of the Great Walks network.
- $5.7 million to develop Great Short Walks and Great Day Walks.
- $19.8 million for upgraded tourist facilities.
"The Tourism Infrastructure Fund will provide infrastructure such as toilets and carparks, but we're also prepared to consider projects like visitor information centres, and feasibility studies for infrastructure projects on a case-by-case basis as part of the fund," Ms Bennett says.
"The industry has clearly told us that infrastructure is their top priority and we've responded to that. We're moving from a focus of just boosting tourist numbers to also attracting higher-value tourists to all regions.
"Last year international tourism expenditure reached $14.5 billion, which is more than 20 percent of New Zealand's total exports of goods and services. It's also a significant employer, generating around 188,000 jobs directly, and a further 144,000 indirectly," Ms Bennett says.
The funding comes after calls for Government to deal with problems from freedom campers leaving messes in popular places over the holiday season.