New Zealand fishing, hunting guides say trans-Tasman bubble too late to make difference

Fishing and hunting guides say the trans-Tasman bubble has come too late to make a difference to business.
Fishing and hunting guides say the trans-Tasman bubble has come too late to make a difference to business. Photo credit: File Image

By Hugo Cameron for RNZ.

Fishing guides who have been left with little to no business due to the border closure say the trans-Tasman bubble has come too late to make a difference to this season.

The New Zealand Professional Fishing Guides Association has 130 licensed guides and more than 90 percent of their clients come from overseas.

Its president Serge Bonnafoux said without international fishers coming in, many guides had been forced to find other work.

"For the young families who have one, two or three kids, have a mortgage, it's a disaster."

Bonnafoux said only some areas would benefit from Australian tourists coming over to fish from today, with the season ending for most areas in May.

"The biggest beneficiaries of the trans-Tasman bubble would be probably our colleagues around Taupō, Rotorua where there is the winter run for the rainbow trout and hopefully those guys will get a fair bit of business."

He said while guides had suffered a big drop in income, the costs associated with running their businesses, including insurance and administration, had not gone away. Bonnafoux said the industry had not received enough support from the government.

"I think that unfortunately, we are living in a situation where the little people like us have been completely forgotten.

"We would hope that somewhere, somehow, whether it's coming from the Ministry of Finances (sic) or Ministry for Tourism, we would have some help getting us through another probably bleak season," Bonnafoux said.

Troutlands owner Martin Langlands has been a professional guide for 30 years and said the season had been "remarkably tough" without overseas clients.

Langlands said other work he picked up, like teaching casting and selling handmade flies, had been his lifeblood this year.

"In a regular year probably 95 percent of my clients are overseas so we've fundamentally missed this whole season ... I've managed to survive but generally it's been very hard," he said.

He said the bubble should bring a few anglers over from Australia but it would not be enough for most guides.

"It's not probably going to help most of us this season but it certainly shines a light for us of optimism, more for next season," Langlands said.

Bubble too late to prop up hunting industry

Meanwhile, the $100-million-a-year tourist-based game hunting sector also said the Australian travel bubble had come too late in the season to provide much relief.

Trophy deer and other game animal estates attract high paying clients from mid-February to June and one of the largest operators, Rakaia's High Peak Station is facing a second year with more than a $1 million drop in revenue.

High Peak partner Simon Guild said he was marketing to Australia now but those hunters would never make up for high-value clients from the US, Asia and Europe.

"The metrics are just not in our favour ... Australians will spend more than Kiwis but they won't spend anything like Americans [and] there's a lot less of them.

"No one's expecting to fill the void that's left by those people. If we can do 10 percent of what we were able to do I would be happy with that."

Guild said they had coped better financially this year because, unlike last year, they had not paid all the pre-season set up costs.

However, Guild said for the second year in a row small rural economies would suffer. He said he would usually hire about eight staff from rural areas during the season and buy hunting resources in smaller towns. This year, none of that money was moving through remote areas.

He said the game industry felt the government had chucked it on the scrap heap, despite it being a high earner.

"The tourism ministry is happy to take the benefits and the revenue and the tax generated by the hunting industry but it doesn't really want to acknowledge it as a core part of our tourism infrastructure.

"It's $100 million of high value, low impact revenue. It's not something that, I guess, sits well with the people in Wellington."

Guild said there was no way estate operators could survive if borders did not open up for next season.