It was a grand event on the scale and with the gravity, pomp & national importance of Clochemerle, the opening of a public urinal in a French village made famous by a 1972 BBC television series, and it came with a grand Government media release headed, New Tekapo toilets open for business.
The narrator in that television series, the multi-talented Peter Ustinov, would have done the opening of the new Government-sponsored public toilets in Tekapo proud, but he wasn’t available, having died in 2004. So the job of officiating fell to Associate Tourism Minister Nicky Wagner, there to espouse the benefits to humanity of the Government’s Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund, which co-funded Tekapo’s 2 new toilet blocks, one near the Church of the Good Shepherd and the other in the Mackenzie country township.
She may have proudly muttered “Every second longdrop is ours” on her way to this splendid event, but I can’t confirm that as I was safely ensconced in the Auckland Town Hall listening to the debate & presentations on council long-term plans for even more magnificent infrastructure.
The Mackenzie District Council received $405,000 from the fund last year for the construction of the Tekapo toilet blocks – manna from an outfit which, to me, seems to have been ever so slightly tightfisted in parting with any largesse arising from the growing gst windfall it’s received from New Zealand’s rising tourist numbers.
Ms Wagner told her audience: “Tekapo is an iconic Kiwi location, but this little town of around 400 people receives in excess of 100,000 visitors/month in the summer season, and we were seeing high demand for new facilities.
“It’s great to see this fund in action, helping smaller communities like Tekapo respond to growth in visitor numbers by developing new & enhanced infrastructure.
“There is no doubt tourism benefits the area — international & domestic visitors spent around $723 million in South Canterbury in the year to January, an 8% jump on 2016. Tourism drives growth & job creation in this region, as in so many others around the country.”
The Government developed the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund as part of its tourism strategy “to help regions benefit from growth while managing the pressures it places on communities & infrastructure”.
The Government allocated $12 million – over 4 years – for the fund in its 2016 Budget and announced an additional $5.5 million this month. The Tekapo toilets are one of 14 approved projects from the first funding round, held last year. A second funding round is open until 12 April.
Deputy Prime Minister & Tourism Minister Paula Bennett flushed most of a $1.4 billion council wish list for tourism-related projects down the toilet 2 weeks ago, saying most of the listed projects were “either already funded by other areas of Government, are not considered a priority or should be funded by local councils”.
She recognised that tourism had become a $14.5 billion/year export earner and that these visitors “are incredibly important to our economy, particularly in the regions.”
But the return to those regions trying to cope with record tourist numbers is a drop in the bucket, on Local Government NZ president Lawrence Yule’s count. He said the gst contribution to the Government from international visitors rose from $950 million in the March 2015 year to $1.5 billion in the March 2016 year.
Local Government NZ & major tourism organisations want a national tourism infrastructure levy which, between the industry and matching Government contributions, would generate $130 million/year to fund local tourism infrastructure needs.
Clochemerle was a 1934 satirical novel by French author Gabriel Chevallier on the conflicts between Catholics & Republicans during the French Third Republic, which ran from 1870 until it collapsed at the start of the Second World War.
16 Mach 2017: Bennett rejects councils’ tourism infrastructure funding list
Attribution: Ministerial release, Wikipedia.