Otago Daily Times

Labour Day tourism picks up

Dis­grun­tled Te Anau busi­ness own­ers are suf­fer­ing angst over what they feel is ‘‘un­fair’’ dis­tri­bu­tion of gov­ern­ment fi­nan­cial sup­port fol­low­ing the Covid cri­sis. re­porter Laura Smith talks to those feel­ing the pinch and peeved by the Gov­ern­ment’s re­spon

- MATTHEW MCKEW matthew.mckew@odt.co.nz Travel · Queenstown · Queenstown · Jacinda Ardern · Kelvin Davis · Te Anau · Otago Region · Wanaka · Southland Region · New Zealand · South Island · Kingston · Oamaru · The Penguin Group · Omarama · Lake Tekapo · The Motels · Ranfurly · Palmerston

IN spring, Te Anau busi­nesses are usu­ally buzzing. But at a time when tourists would nor­mally be ad­mir­ing the spring blos­som — car parks are empty, ho­tels re­main closed, the streets are quiet and shops have no cus­tomers brows­ing shelves.

Some be­lieve a lack of sup­port from the Gov­ern­ment has only ac­cen­tu­ated the prob­lem.

While news of an­nounce­ments came thick and fast for Queen­stown and fur­ther north, Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern and then tourism min­is­ter Kelvin Davis did not open gov­ern­ment cof­fers to Te Anau.

Fiord­land Com­mu­nity Board chair­woman Sarah Gre­aney said from an op­er­a­tors point of view, it looked to be a good sea­son be­fore both the Fe­bru­ary flood­ing and Covid­19 hit.

She said the de­lay in open­ing the area’s walk­ing tracks cost the econ­omy an es­ti­mated $1 mil­lion to $2 mil­lion alone.

Sup­port such as the wage sub­sidy, pack­ages and schemes of­fered by the Gov­ern­ment did not go far enough to help small busi­nesses, she said.

She said the pro­fes­sional pack­age for small busi­nesses of­fered $5000 for plan­ning for cater­ing to a do­mes­tic mar­ket, but did not help with the ac­tual im­ple­men­ta­tion.

“They’re strug­gling from that point of view, they’ve al­ready had to cash­flow them­selves through the win­ter.”

It was orig­i­nally es­ti­mated 40% of the Te Anau pop­u­la­tion would be made re­dun­dant; sev­eral well­be­ing ini­tia­tives were launched in the area as res­i­dents’ stress and emo­tional drain be­came ob­vi­ous.

Ms Gre­aney agreed with com­mu­nity mem­bers the Otago

Daily Times spoke to that the dis­tri­bu­tion of funds from cen­tral gov­ern­ment was on an “un­even play­ing field”.

“The as­set pro­tec­tion fund­ing was very poorly han­dled by cen­tral gov­ern­ment in my opin­ion.”

She said there was mas­sive in­equity, with no con­sis­tent for­mula ap­plied — “It’s very hard to see how that fund was fairly dis­trib­uted.”

The “in­dis­crim­i­nate” de­ci­sions were bla­tantly un­fair and she said they de­served bet­ter than that.

She felt Te Anau had been for­got­ten about “in lots of ways”.

The town had been af­fected by flood­ing, de­layed track open­ing and Covid­19.

“I specif­i­cally asked for a tar­geted ex­ten­sion of the wage sub­sidy just for Fiord­land for those three things. We were cat­e­gor­i­cally told that wouldn’t hap­pen.”

There are Out­side Sports re­tail shops in Te Anau, Queen­stown and Wanaka — and soon, Tekapo.

Di­rec­tors John Knight and Dar­ren Grim­mett felt the in­tent of the Gov­ern­ment’s Covid­19 fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance was right.

Mr Knight said he did not think they would have qual­i­fied for the $400 mil­lion ‘‘ac­tiv­ity com­pany lolly scram­ble’’, but knew of com­pa­nies that did, while oth­ers missed out ‘‘for no ap­par­ent rea­son’’.

He said rules should be clear and easy to un­der­stand.

Some of the ‘‘iconic’’ Te Anau busi­nesses had missed out, while other big­ger com­pa­nies did not — he hoped it would be ‘‘ret­ro­spec­tively sorted out’’.

Mr Grim­mett called it a ‘‘knee­jerk re­ac­tion’’ and ‘‘pos­si­bly a lit­tle bit un­fair’’.

THINGS are look­ing ten­ta­tively busy across Otago and South­land this Labour Week­end, as New Zealan­ders sup­port lo­cal tourism.

Camp sites across the dis­trict were re­port­ing some early book­ings.

Queen­stown Top 10 Hol­i­day Park re­cep­tion­ist Rachel David­son said it had ex­pe­ri­enced a bumper school hol­i­days and busy pe­riod post­lock­down but things were fi­nally slow­ing down this week.

Erna Spi­jker­bosch, owner of Queen­stown Hol­i­day Parks and Mo­tels, Creeksyde, said many ad­ven­ture­bound tourists pre­ferred a spon­ta­neous ap­proach.

‘‘Camp­site­wise New Zealan­ders don’t tend to pre­book un­less it’s marathon week­end, Gibb­ston Val­ley Con­cert or Christ­mas, New Year’s, they just rock up and we’re very pleased to see them when they do.’’

She said with Labour Week­end fol­low­ing close on the heels of school hol­i­days, it could make for a slower week­end

AJ Hack­ett Bungy NZ re­ceived $5,100,000 through the Strate­gic Tourism As­sets Pro­tec­tion Pro­gramme — 130 busi­nesses have re­ceived sup­port, with most re­ceiv­ing $500,000 or less. Th­ese in­cluded sev­eral Fiord­land com­pa­nies.

Des­ti­na­tion Fiord­land re­ceived $400,000, and Great South $700,000.

Sand­fly Cafe owner Carolyn Fox said there had not been enough sup­port for busi­nesses.

‘‘There prob­a­bly hasn’t been enough thought gone into where money should be dis­trib­uted.’’

Her un­der­stand­ing was that a lot of Te Anau busi­nesses did not

WANAKA QUEEN­STOWN CROMWELL ALEXAN­DRA than usual when in­ter­na­tional vis­i­tors were in town.

‘‘The South Is­land has a mil­lion peo­ple, the North Is­land has four mil­lion who can drive with­out us­ing a ferry or an aero­plane, and so that I think has a lit­tle bit of im­pact.’’

Jono Ed­monds, from Kingston TOP 10 Hol­i­day Park, said there were only a few book­ings so far, but he was bar­gain­ing on peo­ple turn­ing up on the day.

Over at Clutha Gold Cot­tages in Roxburgh, Chris­tine Ben­nen­broek said she was fully booked.

‘‘There are def­i­nitely a lot of mo­torhomes on the road for sure, I’ve no­ticed over the last week or so.’’

She said she was ‘‘lucky’’ to have a lot of re­turn cus­tomers and the weather in Cen­tral Otago was help­ing bring New Zealan­ders out.

‘‘The bike trail may have no­ticed [a dip] with no over­seas peo­ple, but talk­ing to peo­ple, they’re notic­ing a lot more New Zealan­ders are do­ing it.’’

An in­creas­ing num­ber of do­mes­tic cy­cling hol­i­days seemed to be a re­sult of a favourite lock­down pas­time for New Zealan­ders, Tourism Wai

know they were el­i­gi­ble for as­sis­tance.

‘‘I be­lieve they prob­a­bly gave too much to peo­ple, whereas that one big amount could have helped 10 small busi­ness own­ers.’’

She imag­ined there were a few busi­ness own­ers within the town who were dis­ap­pointed and up­set at how quickly the money was dis­trib­uted, with not enough ad­vice from ‘‘top dogs’’.

‘‘It’s sad — it was turn­ing into such a vi­brant, busy wee town and through no fault of its own it has lost that.’’

Miles Bet­ter Pies owner Paul John­son said the sub­si­dies they taki gen­eral man­ager Mar­garet Munro said.

The Old Sta­tion Cy­cle Trail, for ex­am­ple she said, was get­ting more book­ings for sum­mer than in the cor­re­spond­ing pe­riod last year.

‘‘I think dur­ing lock­down a lot of peo­ple got back into cy­cling, so that seems to be driv­ing that and peo­ple are build­ing a hol­i­day around that ac­tiv­ity.’’

She said the Labour Week­end was of­ten an op­por­tu­nity for New Zealan­ders to take car­a­vans and boats up to the Waitaki lakes ready for vis­its through the warmer months.

As for the Oa­maru Blue Pen­guin Colony, she said peo­ple had made for­ward book­ings and it was the per­fect time to visit.

Hot Tubs Omarama owner Emma Moore said that the Labour Week­end space was sell­ing out fast and cy­clists were fill­ing slots on the slower mid­week days, but that was noth­ing un­usual.

In South­land, Des­ti­na­tion Fiord­land man­ager Madeleine Pea­cock said there were events in the re­gion and Te Anau she hoped would draw vis­i­tors. had re­ceived had been great.

He also be­lieved fund­ing from the Gov­ern­ment had not been fairly dis­trib­uted and it was im­por­tant to re­mem­ber there was not just Queen­stown.

‘‘I think ar­eas like Te Anau may have missed out on a lot of fund­ing — I think it’s the for­got­ten town some­times.

‘‘When they look at tourism in the South Is­land, it looks more to Queen­stown and not so much Te Anau.’’

Des­ti­na­tion Fiord­land man­ager Madeleine Pea­cock said the town had been hurt­ing since the Fe­bru­ary floods.

It was hoped with the Great

TWIZEL

OTEM­ATATA RAN­FURLY OA­MARU PALMER­STON

Walks open­ing soon, num­bers would pick up, and Labour Week­end tended to bring peo­ple to town.

In a pre­Covid world, over the peak sea­son there were up to

5000 peo­ple a day vis­it­ing Mil­ford Sound and “95% of those come through Te Anau’’.

‘‘How­ever they come, they con­trib­ute some­thing to our econ­omy.’’

She said there was still a time of reck­on­ing to come.

There had been ‘‘great sup­port’’ from the re­gional devel­op­ment agency in sup­port­ing busi­nesses to stay afloat.

Ms Pea­cock said Fiord­land would see “wind­fall” from the strate­gic tourism as­set pro­tec­tion pro­gramme and the re­gional events fund.

How­ever, busi­ness sup­port from the Gov­ern­ment had been chaotic, she said.

“We know there are on­go­ing dis­cus­sions on that. It’s been good for some and dev­as­tat­ing for oth­ers. It’s cre­ated an un­even play­ing field.”

There should be no re­sent­ment from the Te Anau com­mu­nity that in­di­vid­ual busi­nesses re­ceived sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial sup­port, such as sev­eral in Queen­stown, be­cause ev­ery­one could have ap­plied for it, she said.

“In fact there are mul­ti­ple busi­nesses that op­er­ate across both ar­eas; there’s a ben­e­fit for both re­gions.

“What I’m hear­ing is sen­ti­ment ex­pressed from op­er­a­tors of dis­ap­point­ment when they see com­peti­tors re­ceiv­ing fund­ing that they didn’t think they were el­i­gi­ble for.”

That caused ten­sion.

While she had no specifics on strug­gling busi­nesses, Ms Pea­cock said she knew anec­do­tally there were some just “hold­ing on for the sum­mer”.

She ex­pected the sum­mer sea­son to be busier than it had been so far, as peo­ple wanted to com­plete “bucket list” wishes in the coun­try.

laura.smith@al­lied­press.co.nz

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