‘Good response to infrastructure report, but don’t touch the Great Walks.’
Early in December four of NZ’s key tourism leaders jointly released a report to the then Minister of Tourism proposing the establishment of a $130 million annual fund to address the infrastructure challenges that tourism brings, particularly for regional communities.
Fortunately one commentator, Dave Bamford (of Dave Bamford Tourism Development) commented “while applauding the tourism development fund proposal, was somewhat alarmed at a suggestion in the report for privatising the Great Walks in our national parks. The McKinsey Report proposed that a private consortium would disign, build, finance, operate and maintain the Great Walks – and build more.
This concept flies in the face of the long-cherished, embedded in legislation, freedom of access to our national parks. It could also ignore the Treaty of Waitangi obligations” Bamford wrote in his blog.
“Instead what is needed is increased Government funding from the $2.8 billion GST receipts currently generated by tourism. With more than half of our visitors enjoying visits to the DOC estate, let’s ensure that DOC actually has the ability to manage the rapidly growing visitor numbers in our national hotspots.”
Visitors to much of a good thing?
Above heading x NZ Herald Business section this morning: The article goes on to confirm”A powerful group of tourism leaders has got behind a push for the Government to contribute $65 million a year to a dedicated infrastructure fund – to match funding by a bed tax and a $5 increase in the border levy.” and goes on to suggest:
“There’s a persistent issue facing the tourism industry – the honesty of the 100% Pure New Zealand Promotion.”
What do you think?
Full report below:
Privatising our great walks, funding National Park tourism infrastructure and more
With our Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, John Key, stepping down this week the media has been preoccupied with who is sitting next to who at the cabinet table.
At the same time a crucial report on future management and funding options for tourism, including in our national parks, was released but received little notice.
The McKinsey Report (https://tia.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Tourism-Infrastructure-Executive-Summary2.pdf) was commissioned by major industry players Air New Zealand, Tourism Holdings (the country’s largest rental camper van operator) and Christchurch and Auckland airports to consider options for funding tourism infrastructure. The Report’s recommendations, if accepted, could have significant impacts and benefits on how we manage the growing tourism sector in our small tourism towns and villages, and the tourism hotspots in our national parks.
In summary, the report concludes at least $100 million a year is needed for investment in infrastructure and key areas in our tourism towns and villages and national parks.
The report proposes a tourism development fund made up of contributions from a border departure tax ($5/departing passenger) and a 2% bed tax on all accommodation, matched by an equal contribution from Treasury’s GST return. This is an excellent concept and the sooner it is implemented the better.
Yes, there will be challenges with the bed tax concept —so perhaps just increase the GST contribution and the border departure tax – but, in principle, let’s encourage the development of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund. Let’s also make sure it addresses the burgeoning challenges we face with tourism pressures in parts of the DOC estate.
However, of particular interest and, in fact alarm, for me was the suggestion for privatising the Great Walks in our national parks. The McKinsey Report proposed that a private consortium would design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Great Walks – and build more. This concept flies in the face of the long-cherished, embedded in legislation, freedom of access to our national parks. It could also ignore Treaty of Waitangi obligations.
Instead, what is needed is increased government funding from the $2.8 billion GST receipts currently generated by tourism. With more than half of our visitors enjoying visits to the DOC estate, let’s ensure that DOC actually has the ability to manage the rapidly growing visitor numbers in our national park hotspots – along with other under-pressure DOC-managed sites such as Cape Reinga and Huka Falls.
Hopefully now, with the English-Bennett leadership settling in, meaningful media and public debate on the best options for funding our tourism infrastructure will ensue. We need this for our struggling small communities and for the sustainable management of our Conservation estate.
It was good to hear last week’s Radio New Zealand sound bites covering these issues, including on Jim Mora’s panel this week (http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/thepanel/audio/201826818/tourism-infrastructure-strain). There will be more discussion this coming week on Nine to Noon.
Great Walks aside, the McKinsey Report made some excellent recommendations. Let’s all grab the opportunity and encourage the implementation of these so that the development of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, and the appropriate allocation of resources, occurs as soon as possible.
Photo: Easy snow shoe walking on the Tasman Glacier
More background info:
Our Great Walks – is it time to pay?
Popularity of major tramps has ‘exploded’ and DOC boss says charge of up to $100 may be needed.
It may be time to start charging for the use of the country’s Great Walks, Department of Conservation director-general Lou Sanson says.
Foreign tourists could pay $100 and New Zealanders $40 to cope with a huge increase in trampers — especially overseas travellers — and their effect on the environment, he suggested.
Sanson said the country’s Great Walks brand had “exploded” but this popularity had created some problems.
A report prepared 18 months ago said 30 per cent of international visitors came to New Zealand to connect with nature. That figure was now 50 per cent.
As tourism numbers increased to New Zealand, it was important to protect the country’s point of difference — its natural environment.
In March, he took the United States ambassador to the Tongariro Alpine Crossing — a 19.4km one-day trek between the Mangatepopo Valley and Ketatahi Rd in the North Island.
“Every time we stopped we were surrounded by 40 people. That is not my New Zealand. We have got to work this stuff out — these are the real challenges,” Sanson told the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce yesterday.
Past president of Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand Robin McNeill said he could see the appeal of a charge to cover a shortfall, but thought there were better ways to come up with the cash.
“Something else we should consider is tourism growth in New Zealand is about 18 per cent year-on-year at the moment. Why not just fund the department 18 per cent more each year to allow for that? That wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Mr McNeill said.
He said determining who was a tourist, and who was a short-term resident or worker could be difficult, and the overheads of administering the charge could soak up some of the revenue.
He said there was a variety of models used overseas.
“If you’re in Europe and you’re on some of the great walks there … yes you’ll pay money for the huts, but it’ll be under $100. But if you go tramping by yourself or climbing by yourself and stay in a tent, you won’t get charged anything. [But] in the United States sometimes you have to pay to get into a national park.”
On the Routeburn Track numbers were increasing by 10 per cent annually, with 70 per cent of the users coming from overseas.
Introducing differential charges on the Great Walks was one potential mechanism to alleviate pressure, Mr Sanson said.
“We have got to think [about that]. I think New Zealand has to have this debate about how we’re going to do bed taxes, departure charges — we have got to work our way around this.
“I think a differential charge [is an option] — internationals [pay] $100, we get a 60 per cent discount.”
Sanson said legislation did not allow the department to cap numbers, or charge people for anything other than the use of facilities.
“We have got ‘freedom of access’ [so] we have to change our legislation [to do that].
“There would be a lot of debates about that [but] I think we’ve got to have that debate … because we’re going to have to do something — this goes to the heart of being a Kiwi.
“The differential charge, some ministers say that looks a bit third world-ish … I quite like it.”
In February the Conservation Authority, which advises DOC and the Conservation Minister, suggested that international tourists might have to pay to visit national parks because of the tourism boom.
Chairman Warren Parker said DOC could not afford to pay the growing costs of infrastructure, waste removal and cleaning campgrounds unless it introduced some kind of user-pays charges for tourists.
Sanson said in February that 600,000 visitors were expected at Milford this year. There was very heavy demand on the Routeburn and Kepler tracks, plus record numbers on Te Araroa trail across the length of the country.
Trampers already pay to stay at most huts on Department of Conservation walks, based on a three-tier system.
Huts on Great Walks cost $54 a night for the Routeburn, Milford, and Kepler tracks, $32 for the Heaphy, Abel Tasman Coast Track, Tongariro Northern Circuit, Whanganui Journey and Lake Waikaremoana and $22 for Rakiura.
Huts on these tracks are double-glazed and include gas cookers, heating, toilets and mattresses. Some have resident wardens.
On other tracks, a serviced hut (with sleeping platforms, mattress, toilets, water and fuel) costs $15 a night. A standard hut (sleeping platforms, toilets, water) is $5 a night and a basic hut (bivvy, shelter, simple hut) is free.