COVID-19 recovery: South Island tourism businesses eligible for up to $10,000 in grants as part of $200 million package

South Island tourism businesses will be eligible for up to $10,000 to implement expert advice on their post-COVID future as part of a $200 million Government plan. 

Tourism Minister Stuart Nash unveiled the $200 million Tourism Communities: Support, Recovery and Re-set Plan on Thursday, a plan set out until 2023 which also includes infrastructure, Māori development, and "mental wellbeing support".

Businesses in five South Island regions - Fiordland, South Westland, Queenstown Lakes, Mackenzie District, and Kaikōura - will be eligible for grants of up to $5000 for expert advice and another $5000 to implement the advice they receive. 

"The economic impact of the loss of international visitors is felt beyond the tourism workforce and businesses," Nash said on Thursday. "Whole communities, especially in five South Island regions, are facing new challenges to their way of life."

The $200 million plan is funded through the COVID-19 recovery fund. It includes around $73 million returned and reprioritised from the $400 million Tourism Recovery Package announced in Budget 2020

The South Island has already been prioritised for the final of five rounds of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund launched in 2017 under National. The final size of the funding pool is around $16 million. 

Support for the five South Island regions:

  • $4.5 million for psychological and social wellbeing support and training
  • $10 million ($5000 per business) will go towards grants for businesses to get expert advice on planning and decision-making in response to COVID-19.
  • $10 million ($5000 per business) will go towards grants to help businesses implement these plans and advice.
  • $49 million on grants for businesses that have gone into hibernation or suspended operations to help reopen and resume trading once international visitors return.
  • $20 million to diversify and "re-set" the Queenstown-Wanaka regional economy, to help develop alternative industries and attract private sector investment, for a region "over-reliant on international tourism".
  • $15 million to enable the Milford Opportunities Project - established in 2017 - to move to its next phase. It requires detailed planning, community consultation, consenting, and preparation for new infrastructure. 

Nash said tourism at the iconic UNESCO World Heritage site Milford Sound-Piopiotahi cannot return to its pre-COVID state, hence the hefty multimillion-dollar investment. 

Pressure from 870,000 annual visitors undermines cultural and environmental values and infrastructure in Fiordland National Park, he said. The investment aims to protect it and create a more sustainable visitor experience. 

The rest of the funding:

  • $14 million in existing loans from last year's Tourism Recovery Package will be able to be converted into grants. It means 26 Inbound Tour Operators (ITOs), those that facilitate tourism visits to New Zealand, may receive up to $500,000 each.
  • $10 million will allow Department of Conservation land concession fees to be waived for a further six months. Fees were waived in June last year as part of a $25 million tourism support package.
  • $26 million will go to regional tourism operators as part of a new round of annual grants, thanks to a surge in domestic tourism over the last year. 
  • $16 million (as already mentioned) will go to local councils who can apply for another round of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund. It will help them pay for tourism assets like car parks, toilet blocks, waste disposal facilities, and cycle paths.
  • $10 million in new funding will go towards developing a Tourism Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) that will see the Government work with tourism businesses, councils, iwi, researchers and independent advisers.
  • Māori Development Minister Willie Jackson will announce details next month on funding which will be managed by New Zealand Māori Tourism to expand their business support services.