Development West Coast (DWC) has committed $5 million towards a package to help protect the social and economic fabric of the Glacier Country.
A recent survey conducted by DWC and the Glacier Country Tourism Group has revealed the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on Franz Josef, Fox Glacier, and the surrounding settlements.
According to survey results: 62% of jobs have been lost in the Glacier Country, 16% of businesses have closed, at least 23% of people have left, and the area has experienced significant losses of volunteers in key community services.
It is forecast that in the next six months, if there is no additional support, 84% of jobs will be lost, 67% of businesses closed, and at least 31% of people will leave the community.
DWC chief executive Heath Milne said Glacier Country has been a key contributor to the economy of the wider West Coast region and New Zealand. Pre-COVID, it was responsible for 21% of inbound tourists to NZ and contributed around $120m per annum to New Zealand’s GDP.
“When we come out of this situation, and international tourists return, if that community isn’t there to host them it is going to have an impact on the whole country.”
“The true value of Glacier Country goes far beyond its significant economic contribution. Over 1,170 West Coasters have built lives and families in the area, with many contributing to the wellbeing of their small communities through volunteer services.
“The conversation is not just about tourism - it is about the community. It is about the teachers, builders, electricians, and the volunteers providing fire and emergency, ambulance and search and rescue services. This is about the social fabric of the area. The community down there will not survive unless there is some form of support.”
In response to the current crisis, DWC has committed $5m towards an assistance package.
“The focus of the assistance will be decided after consulting with the community facilitated through the Glacier Country Tourism group. The group will liaise with the wider community over the coming week to get input as to the best way to utilise the funding to the benefit of the whole Glacier Country area.
“Given the gravity of the situation in the Glacier Country, we believe there is still a good opportunity for Government to work with local communities to help protect their social and economic fabric, and ensure they are ready and able to significantly contribute to the national economy once again when it rebounds.”