Video transcript: Inquiry into the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme

Transcript for a video about our report Inquiry into the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme.

Helen Colebrook (Senior Inquiries Specialist)

In March 2020, New Zealand's borders closed and that had a significant impact on the tourism industry. It was like turning the tap off overnight. Government wanted to provide quick support to the sector and they did that through the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme.

We decided to have a look at it, given the amount of money involved and some of the concerns being expressed in the media by people from the tourism industry about the consistency of the application assessment process and the decisions made.

We had a look at it and there are three areas that we concluded could do with some aspect of improvement.

The first relates to the clarity of the criteria for the programme. In particular, one of them that attracted a lot of criticism was whether or not parent companies should have been called on before government resources were applied.

Secondly, we looked at the consistency of the applications. We did see a reasonably consistent process for assessing the full STAPP applicants, but it was a bit unclear to us how some of the funding amounts were arrived at at the end of the day.

Thirdly, we had some concerns about the transparency of the process and that decisions weren't always clearly documented. Ministers can make whatever decisions they want and they will take advice from a range of people. However, it needs to be very clear why they've made the decisions they have, particularly if that differs from advice that's been provided by officials.

So what we'd like to see for the future out of this is government departments thinking very clearly about their criteria for schemes, making sure that it's very clear to applicants whether or not they're eligible, whether it's worthwhile them applying.

Secondly, government departments need to think about what information they need to gather at the outset to establish whether in fact the applicants meet the criteria and that might be upfront in the case of a high-trust scheme but there should be some corroboration down the track.

We would like to see better documenting of decisions, particularly by ministers. It's important for transparency and public trust and confidence that people can see and understand the reasons why those decisions were made. And, lastly, we think it's timely in a couple of years' time to do a review of the effectiveness of STAPP.

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