“The Auditor General has made official what everyone in tourism knew, the Strategic Tourism Assets Protection Programme didn’t just have an awkward made-up name, it was dodgy all the way through,” says ACT Leader David Seymour.

“ACT has received widespread reports from the tourism sector that there was no rhyme nor reason to who got STAPP grants and who didn’t. The Auditor General’s report is a doozy, saying that the conditions for getting a grant were unclear and nobody checked the information applicants provided while handing out $290 million of taxpayer money.

“The Auditor General also accuses the Government of blatant racism, saying that all Māori Tourism businesses that applied were given money, but non-Māori businesses had to score at least 15/30 points in an assessment.

“The scheme is euphemistically described as ‘high trust’ and the Auditor General goes on to say that ‘Criteria needed to be clear and provide enough guidance so tourism businesses applying for funding could self-assess whether they met the criteria and whether it was worthwhile applying. One key criterion was that tourism businesses applying for funding had to have “exhausted all other avenues of support”. What this meant in practice was unclear.’

“It turns out that when applicants did self-assess, no effort was made to validate their information, despite half a million dollars of taxpayer money being given to each one. ‘No inquiries were made about tourism businesses’ equity position or parent company resources.’

“Failing to check whether businesses were profitable meant that profitable parent companies collected millions through their subsidiaries. ‘The Tourism Recovery Ministers did give funding to tourism businesses with profitable parent companies, including two parent companies that received funding of $31.2 million and $30 million respectively for their subsidiary tourism businesses.’

“Most damning is the criticism of Tourism Minister Stuart Nash. He made decisions without records, rhyme nor reason, with hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money. ‘We saw limited evidence explaining the reasons for the decisions. Without those records, those who have made the decisions are not able to adequately explain why funding was provided.’

“Stuart Nash has some serious explaining to do.”