Chris Hipkins defends hospitality being left out of Govt's $37.5 million Auckland stimulus package

COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins is defending hospitality being left out of Auckland's stimulus package. 

On Wednesday, the Government announced a $37.5 million funding package aimed at reviving Auckland's economy and encouraging social and cultural events. 

The package is a joint project between the Government, Auckland Council and Auckland Unlimited. Along with immediate funding for food banks, there's also 100,000 vouchers and discounts to council facilities up for grabs, a fund for small-scale events and extra marketing to encourage people to visit Tāmaki Makaurau. 

But the Restaurants Association has hit out at the Government for not including hospitality in the scheme.

 "We are absolutely crushed for our Auckland businesses that have been closed for months on end and are left with nothing in this package," It said in a statement on Wednesday. 

"They may as well just call the campaign ‘explore Tāmaki Makaurau minus hospitality’ this summer.

“For 475 days we have been calling for targeted support, yet every call has fallen on deaf ears." 

The Restaurant Association said the announcement was a kick in the guts for businesses that are already struggling. 

"In September this year we released a suite of targeted support package options for the Government to consider. Included in this was Dine & Discover NZ, a voucher scheme which is eerily similar to today’s announcement

“It’s nice of the Government to offer this present on the 1st day of December, yet the ones who proposed it are not unwrapping the gift.

“It is another kick in the guts for morale for this industry that has been brought to its knees."

Minister Hipkins defended the package at a press conference on Wednesday, saying restaurants and cafes can open on Friday. 

"I expect there will be demand for restaurants. There's a lot of people in Auckland who can't wait to get out and dine out and enjoy those freedoms again, so I am expecting the hospitality sector will see a big surge in demand over the next few weeks."

Hipkins said the vouchers are aimed at getting people out and about and hospitality will benefit as a result. 

"If you look at what the vouchers are designed to do, they are designed to give people the confidence to get out and about and re-engage again. So getting families out doing things as families, and saying to Aucklanders, 'thanks for your hard work and thanks for staying home for that prolonged period of time, now get out and about and enjoy what Auckland has to offer'.

"Of course the hospitality sector is going to benefit from that. People are going to be out and about enjoying hospitality while they also enjoying those things they're getting passes for," he said. 

The Reactivating Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland package in detail:

  • Explore Tāmaki Makaurau this summer is a $12 million voucher and discount programme to encourage families and individuals to visit commercial attractions and council-owned facilities over summer. Any individual or family with an Auckland post code will be eligible.

  • Auckland residents can register interest for a voucher from 15 December.

  • Auckland Unlimited will allocate the vouchers through an online platform from mid-January, and will ensure they are distributed fairly across households in the region. They will be redeemable to the end of April 2022. Attractions and activities who want to be part of the scheme will have to opt-in.

  • The ‘Explore Tāmaki Makaurau this summer’ voucher and discount schemes are expected to reach at least 300,000 people. There are 100,000 vouchers available for families and for individuals, reaching approximately 250,000 people. 

  • Council attractions like the zoo, swimming pools, museums and galleries, may be part of the scheme. Commercial operators will have to opt in and could include a range of activities from outdoor adventure to tech exploration spaces.

  • The Local Activation Programme and discount scheme should reach at least 50,000 people and provide benefits for businesses by encouraging people back to local attractions and events.

  • Local Activation Programme is a $10 million contestable fund for summer events that are free to the public, such as those organised by business associations, community groups, and cultural organisations in town centres. They must require vaccination certificates and follow relevant public health restrictions.

  • Funding will apply to events and activities between 15 December 2021 and 3 April 2022. Applications for funding will open shortly with funding available from 15 December 2021.

  • $3.5 million for a promotional and marketing campaign by Auckland Unlimited to encourage visitors to experience and rediscover local destinations and attractions, and to promote the vouchers and activation programme to residents.

  • $12 million for food banks and community food organisations. It is estimated this could translate to roughly 84,000 food parcels and will be run by the Ministry of Social Development through community providers.