Government announces changes to tourism infrastructure fund as councils cry out for help

Emily Cooper
Source: 1News

The Government has announced changes and easier access to the Tourism Infrastructure fund as councils cry out for more help to deal with the increasing influx of tourists.

The changes will hope to see more projects funded, and a faster decision making around where funding should go.

The National Government announced the $100-million tourism infrastructure fund in May 2017, to help communities facing pressure from tourism growth.

The funding is made available for carparks, freedom camping facilities, sewerage, water and transport projects.

But there has been concern around the fund in the past, with some councils saying the criteria for funding needs to be reviewed.

The Government hopes the changes will deal with some of the issues.

Changes include:

• Lowering the minimum funding threshold from $100,000 to $25,000.
• Streamlined decision making by allowing the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to make decisions up to a million dollars.
• The assessment panel to consider operating and maintenance costs when they assess applications.

Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick told 1 NEWS while her council has been able to make use of the fund, the mass influx nationwide hasn't been easy on many local councils, particularly smaller ones.

"I think we are only now realising that we have got to wake up and face this wonderful tidal wave that's coming at us of tourists and visitors," he said.

10,000 visitors flock to Rotorua every day and visitor spending is increasing around 8 per cent annually.

"I think we've been caught on the backfoot really, no one expected the rapid increase of tourism that we're now experiencing… and having to catch up and to have to put high value infrastructure in as well."

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis told 1 NEWS he hopes the changes will encourage more councils to apply.

"They are experiencing a surge in visitor numbers, it does put pressure on the infrastructure they have,” he said.

The next round of applications for the fund will be open from March.