Queenstown working on local visitor tax

Queenstown Airport passenger numbers reached 2.14million in the year ending June. Photo: Stephen...
Queenstown Airport passenger numbers reached 2.14million in the year ending June. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Queenstown will push on to bring in its own tax on tourists on top of a $35 government levy that will come in from the middle of the year.

The district's mayor Jim Boult said he didn't think the area would benefit sufficiently from the central government levy.

''We've got 5.5 million visitor nights (a year) in the district with 23,000 ratepayers . The numbers simply don't work.''

He said the council was discussing a local levy with the government but hadn't decided on what form it would take.

It could be a bed tax or a wider levy across businesses but this could be complicated.

''If wider than a bed tax - who is in the tourism business? Is it the gas station, burger bar, supermarket as well as accommodation provider?''

The targeted rate levied on commercial accommodation in Auckland wasn't appropriate.

''It's not the right model for us because the rates are not able to be passed on to the end user. Often the owner of the property is not the operator of the property,'' said Boult

There were plenty of models around the world and somewhere would be the model that fitted Queenstown.

A local levy would be applied to overseas visitors and Kiwis, he said.

''We don't want to target foreign visitors. (Kiwis) still drink the water, still flush the loo and drive on the roads.''

Boult said while the area was a strong drawcard for visitors, was not overrun.

Much of the pressure on infrastructure came from people moving into the area to live and the number of tourists had levelled off in line with flattening numbers of overseas visitors.

''We're taking a bit of breather at the moment and I think that's a good thing,'' he said.

''What we don't want to get to is where we have too many visitors. While I think we're a long way from that we do need to manage growth so we don't get into a position where we're like Venice or Barcelona are in now.''

Boult's Queenstown Lakes District Council, Destination Queenstown and Lake Wanaka Tourism have made submissions to the government's tourism strategy and say
it wants more in the document about the role of the visitor industry in addressing the challenges of high growth.

''We understand that Queenstown Lakes is an exceptional case in terms of growth that calls for unique solutions.''

The submission says the New Zealand tourist industry had concentrated on increased numbers of visitors, and has not focused on value.

''We are pleased to see that the strategy identifies the need to attract more high value visitors.''

The government's visitor levy will raise an estimated $80 million a year to pay for tourism infrastructure and conservation projects.

About 2.3m international visitors entering New Zealand for 12 months or less will have to pay the new charge, with exemptions for Pacific Islands and Australia.

Comments

" Much of the pressure on infrastructure came from people moving into the area to live and the number of tourists had levelled off in line with flattening numbers of overseas visitors."

And there is the true cause of congestion in Queenstown. It's not a visitor, as in tourist, levy we need, it's a residential expansion levy that's required. You've only got to look at the vehicles in the traffic jams and the new businesses in Frankton, they are all construction related, and residential construction. Not tourist, there's been comparatively little growth in numbers of hotels and tourism businesses. And as Jim says, there's a slowdown in tourism right now, probably caused by the congestion due to residential expansion. Which in turn is probably going to cause a few residential buyers and builders to loose their shirts.