Development West Coast (DWC) trustees have approved a $5 million Glacier Country Business Support Fund (GCBSF) in response to the current crisis in Franz Josef, Fox Glacier and the surrounding settlements.
“Glacier Country has been one of the hardest hit areas in New Zealand from the pandemic, with many businesses in desperate need of cashflow support to survive,” DWC chief executive Heath Milne said.
Following a meeting between the co-chairs of Glacier Country Tourism Group (GCTG), Westland District Council and DWC a survey was undertaken to better understand the impact COVID-19 is having on the area.
The survey revealed: 62 percent of jobs had been lost in Glacier Country, 16 percent of businesses had closed, at least 23 percent of people had left, and the area had experienced significant losses of volunteers in key community services.
Based on the survey responses it is forecast that in the next six months, if there is no additional support, 84% of jobs will be lost, 67% of businesses will be closed, and at least 31% of people will leave the community.
“The survey results made very sober reading,” Mr Milne said. “The situation has gone far beyond just businesses hurting - this is about the social fabric of the area. The community down there will not survive unless there is urgent support.”
“We understand there are businesses across the West Coast that have been hard hit by COVID-19. What makes the situation in Glacier Country unique and in urgent need of targeted support is the impact it is having on the wider community, not just on businesses.”
Tourism Minister Stuart Nash recently stated the Government is working on a support package targeted at areas such as Glacier Country which have traditionally been heavily reliant on international visitors. However, details on what that support will look like and when it will be available have yet to be announced.
Mr Milne welcomes news of a potential Government support package and acknowledges the various forms of assistance that have been provided to businesses to date.
“We are now a year into the pandemic and many businesses, through no fault of their own, are on a knife-edge. Glacier Country businesses have been loud and clear, they need cashflow support now to be able to survive until the trans-Tasman bubble opens,” said Mr Milne.
The Glacier Country Tourism Group has consulted with the wider community to get input on the best way to utilise DWC’s funding to the benefit of the whole Glacier Country area. Based on this consultation, DWC trustees have approved a $5 million fund for West Coast enterprises located between Whataroa and Lake Moeraki.
Under the GCBSF a maximum of $50,000 will be offered to eligible businesses through cashflow support. Applications for the assistance will open on 1 April and close at 10am on 12 April 2021.
“The $5m Glacier Country Business Support Fund is a significant initiative that will help many businesses in our region to access additional funds to help them to survive,” said Rob Jewell and Richard Benton, co-chairs of Glacier Country Tourism Group.
“We urgently need our borders to safely re-open to overseas visitors and we are all looking forward to the time when the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on our local business community has diminished.”
Media Release: 29 March 2021