Speech to the Great Southern Tourism Opportunity

  • Hon Kelvin Davis

It is great to be here in Queenstown, New Zealand’s iconic visitor destination.

Thank you to Queenstown Mayor Jim Boult for hosting this event.

You could say that tourism began in Queenstown in the 1850’s when Tūtūrau chief

Reko guided settler Nathanael Chalmers to Lakes Wakatipu, Wānaka and Hāwea.

Since then the area has become internationally renowned as tourist spot.

So it is only fitting you are now coming together in this place, as a collective, to look at

the opportunities presented by tourism growth across the wider South.

The Government recognises the real potential for tourism to deliver more economic

development in our regions – including for Māori – and to bring wider benefits to our


We are an active Government – with a clear focus on supporting the regions while

ensuring our environment is protected, and tourism has a significant role to play. 

Tourism is already New Zealand’s number one export earner and is a key contributor

to many regions, especially here in the South.

And with nearly 5 million visitors expected in New Zealand by 2023 your sector is

going to become even more important to our country. 

But this growth is not without its challenges.

I know tourist numbers are putting pressure on infrastructure in some areas and that

we need improved tourism infrastructure - from toilet facilities to car parks to


It’s also important to remember that tourist hotspots, like Queenstown, are also

home to families. Climbing tourist numbers can lead to frustrations for locals, from

increased traffic to people feeling unable to access their favourite public spaces

because they have become popular locations for visitors.

Funding visitor infrastructure and addressing social licence questions are nationwide


We need to address these challenges and identify opportunities to unlock

sustainable tourism growth across your regions and New Zealand as a whole. 

And by sustainable tourism growth I mean economically, socially and

environmentally sustainable. 

New Zealand offers so many world-class experiences that are free to access.

But going forward, how do we encourage further growth while at the same time

maintaining our tracks and visitor services?

I will be talking to the industry and my Ministerial colleagues about how we can work

together to address this.

I’m interested in understanding how we can recover the costs from visitors to reduce

the rates burden on our communities. 

There are a range of ways of charging visitors and I know some councils are

individually looking at targeted rates; residential and commercial rates increases; as

well as increasing debt funding to pay for basic infrastructure needed to host visitors.

I am working with my officials to explore the range of potential funding options from

central Government – including a levy – and what options, or package of options,

might work best. 

There will also be opportunities to support tourism through the billion dollar Provincial

Growth Fund.

The fund is aimed at economic development that is sustainable, creates good jobs,

and doesn’t shift development from one region to another. These are all

outcomes shared by the tourism sector.    

Another important aspect of sustainable tourism growth is managing the impact of

visitors on the environment.  

Our conservation estate is an incredible resource for New Zealand, attracting

international and domestic visitors into the wilderness in our regions.  

The Government needs to ensure conservation values are protected.

For the tourism sector, properly managing impacts is also crucial for maintaining the

support of New Zealanders long term.  

Finally, we want the interactions that visitors have with Kiwis to be

memorable, authentic and positive.  

Our visitors interact daily with people in our communities, whether they work in the

sector or not.

So that means instead of residents in your districts like Te Anau, Lake Hawea,

Oamaru and Geraldine focusing on their frustrations, we want them to focus on the

opportunities tourism can bring. 

The challenge for us is to make sure that we communicate the tangible benefits of

tourism to our local people and that they do not suffer because of visitors. For

tourism to grow, they need to want visitors to come and stay longer in our towns.

That’s why collaborative summits like this are important.

I recognise that Queenstown, Southland, Otago, the West Coast and Canterbury all

have unique offerings for visitors and that your individual regions are at different

stages of development as visitor destinations.

While tourism businesses and regions are fundamentally competing against one

another to attract the visitor dollar, it is great to see you all here, taking this

opportunity to think more strategically about how we can we work together and


This summit is also an opportunity to consider that, for visitors, our local government

boundary lines are unimportant and that we should be thinking about the New

Zealand itinerary as a whole.

I hope you take this opportunity presented by Queenstown Lakes District Council to

share your insight and challenges.

I hope you will share your strategies for managing the challenges presented from

strong visitor growth and ways you are engaging your communities. 

As Minister of Tourism, I have made it a priority to come to Queenstown and

understand the challenges and opportunities that tourism can bring to New Zealand’s


I encourage you to continue working together and to identify some tangible ways that

councils can collaborate on destination management strategies, enhance the overall

visitor experience and share learnings.

I look forward to hearing the outcomes of your discussion.

It is clear that there is a large number of passionate people involved in the sector,

and I look forward to working with you to ensure that tourism delivers the most it can

for our communities and our people.

Thank you.