Friday, 11th November, 2016

A $3 million funding boost for a Tekapo business could spark further investment in South Canterbury, the chief executive of the region’s Chamber of Commerce says.

The chamber has worked behind the scenes for more than a year on a project to snag millions of dollars in funding for Earth and Sky’s new astronomy facility.

That work came to fruition this week, and chief executive Wendy Smith believed the facility, along with other big ticket projects in South Canterbury, would act as catalysts for further developments.

The chamber became aware of the Government’s Tourism Growth Partnership fund in March 2015, and started work to identify what South Canterbury businesses could benefit.

Smith said the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) was looking for ‘‘a couple of really big prize opportunities’’, and Earth and Sky’s project was identified as one of those.

From there, the chamber set about facilitating meetings and working alongside both the business and the ministry. The announcement this week that $3 million had been granted to the company was ‘‘fantastic news’’, she said.

‘‘I think the scale of the Earth and Sky opportunity will benefit New Zealand, as well as South Canterbury.’’

It could also mark the start of a potential period of significant growth in the region, she said.

There were ‘‘a number’’ of other businesses the chamber had identified as having the potential to apply for similar government funding.

Those businesses could piggyback off the success of big ticket anchor projects in the region and tap into the booming tourism market, Smith said.

‘‘The Hydro Grand will absolutely assist with that,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s another opportunity for accommodation, high end accommodation, and it will have a huge flow on effect.’’

The Hydro Grand Hotel in Timaru will be demolished to make way for a $42 million hotel, office, and apartment complex.

A resource consent hearing was scheduled to begin on November 21.

‘‘When a region has that scale of development, other businesses look at that area as well,’’ Smith said. ‘‘It all gives confidence.’’ The funding for Earth and Sky’s new facility was announced by Prime Minister John Key this week.

The funding will be used to construct and fit-out the building, which will also showcase a 125-year-old Brashear Telescope and other historic astronomy equipment.

Key said the Tourism Growth Partnership provided up to $8m in contestable funding each year through co-investment in projects that would create new opportunities in the tourism sector.

The most recent round of Tourism Growth Partnership applications, including a new regionally-focused stream, closed in September. Funding decisions are expected early next year.

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