Moves for visitor levy converging

Vanessa van Uden.
Vanessa van Uden.
A case for a visitor levy for Queenstown is "well advanced'', according to Queenstown Lakes District Council staff, and an economic impact report should be with councillors within a couple of months.

The council began working about April last year on a visitor levy proposal for the Government to consider.

That followed a Local Government New Zealand review of funding that also mooted the idea of a visitor levy for Queenstown.

The district has a relatively small population base of about 30,000, and a ballooning visitor population of about two million people a year.

The proposed levy would help offset the cost of tourists on the district's infrastructure.

In October, then council chief executive Adam Feeley said the council was working with the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce on further analysis.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden told the Otago Daily Times consultancy Sapere Research Group had been engaged "some time ago'' to write a report on various economic measures.

"What we've got to do is prove that we're different from anywhere else.

"Then, it's getting the head around how would we do it and what would we do with it.''

Regardless of what the report said, any proposed visitor levy would be a matter for the Government, she said.

"We don't have the power to do a visitor levy in any way, shape or form.''

Councillors will consider at an extraordinary full council meeting today a report prepared after a meeting in July last year by members of the Queenstown Community Affordable Housing Work Group.

Among other measures, the report recommends that to help achieve a "good supply and a mix of healthy affordable homes [in the] Queenstown Lakes'', the council "resolve and implement a comprehensive funding model for infrastructure (i.e., a tourist tax) by working with and resolving outstanding issues with central government'' and that any money raised be applied primarily to transport, housing and infrastructure.

Council acting district plan manager Blair Devlin said the council had engaged with the Queenstown Chamber and discussed the topic with central government.

He recommended councillors at today's meeting note the case for a visitor levy was "well advanced'' and forward a copy of the group's report to Sapere for consideration.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce chief executive Ann Lockhart could not be contacted for comment.

Included in the work group's four other recommendations to the council were for it to, in consultation with the community, develop a 30-year strategic master plan or vision for the district, to be completed and in place by February 2018.

Mr Devlin recommended the council investigate that.

The group also wanted the council to support, help and promote the acceleration of community-based/affordable housing.

"By way of example, council needs to support more development such as the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust projects that have been completed and/or are under construction.

"Also, ensure affordable housing is retained for long-term community benefit through an appropriate retention mechanism.''

Mr Devlin noted the council had set up and supported the trust with $50,000 funding each year and had given land in Suffolk St, Arrowtown, for an affordable rental development.

He recommended councillors "consider whether further support could be provided, such as additional gifting of land'' as part of the overall work programme for planning and development, with funding to be determined as part of the annual plan.

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