New Zealand

National’s tourism policy promises new Great Walk, holiday visas rework

National leader Christopher Luxon and Southland candidate Joseph Mooney in Queenstown

Christopher Luxon and Joseph Mooney announce the party’s tourism policy in Queenstown.
Photo: RNZ / Jane Patterson

National is promising a new Great Walk, e-bike chargers on cycle trails and a rework of working holiday visas as part of its tourism policy.

The working holiday visa would have a higher age limit, and would scrap the requirement to pay the median wage.

Party leader Christopher Luxon announced the policy alongside Tourism Spokesperson Joseph Mooney in Queenstown on Thursday morning, saying it would aim to get tourism back to pre-pandemic levels.

All up, the policy was expected to cost $22m over four years, coming from unallocated revenue raised by the Conservation and Tourism

components of the International Visitor Levy.

The policy includes:

  • Upgrade the 80km Waiau-Toa/Molesworth walking track in Canterbury to become an 11th Great Walk ($14m)
  • Install 120 solar-powered e-bike chargers along the NZ Cycle Trail / Ngā Haerenga Great Rides of New Zealand ($3m), and review the trails’ annual funding
  • Require DOC to reach concession decisions for tourism operators within a year, and make the concessions last at least five years with a right of renewal
  • Make changes to the working holiday visa
  • Establish a contestable fund to support regional tourism organisations ($5m, with $1.25m per year)
  • Task the proposed National Infrastructure Agency to work with councils to provide more funding to areas with high visitor numbers but low ratepayer bases

The working holiday visa changes would include lifting the upper age from 30 to 35 for all eligible countries; allowing people from eligible countries to apply for a second or third visa if they worked in areas with worker shortages; introducing a priority processing service to allow migrants and businesses fo fast-track applications; and scrapping the requirement for businesses to pay up to 95 percent of the median wage – which would allow sectors like tourism to pay a wage “that reflects their skills and experience”.

Rights of renewal for the concessions would not be allowed in cases where there were environmental or Treaty of Waitangi concerns.

The contestable fund would be based on criteria including high return on investment, and the likelihood of encouraging travellers to explore beyond tourist hotspots.

Mooney said tourism was one of the country’s largest export earners, but “the combination of the pandemic and the Labour government have taken tourism backwards”.

“More than a year since borders re-opened, visitor numbers and tourism jobs have not fully recovered. High inflation, high interest rates and broken immigration settings have punished the tourism and hospitality sectors, pushing many small operators to the brink.”

He said National’s proposals were “useful, practical and affordable initiatives to help tourism recover after a difficult few years”.

Luxon said National’s broader policies around housing and infrastucture would address existing problems like severe accommodation shortages in Queenstown.

He also said he would expect Immigration New Zealand to be much more proactive in clamping down on migrant exploitation under the Accredited Employer Work Visa.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button