Visitor levy mooted as fundraiser

Ann Lockhart.
Ann Lockhart.
A bed tax is back on the agenda for Queenstown, driven by the resort's Chamber of Commerce.

At its annual meeting on Tuesday night, chamber chief executive Ann Lockhart said the board was ''part-way'' into lobbying the Government to allow a ''visitor levy'' to be applied in the area.

Mrs Lockhart said she and chamber chairman Charlie Phillips, the only members to date of the Chamber governance group, had discussed the levy with Prime Minister John Key earlier this year and he was ''open to the idea''.

For it to happen, as in Stewart Island's case, where a $5 visitor levy was introduced last year, Parliament needs to approve a legislative change.

However, a spokeswoman for Mr Key told the Otago Daily Times ''at this stage we have no plans to review that legislation''.

''Local councils have a range of options available under the Local Government Act 2002, such as targeted rates, to raise funds for things such as visitor infrastructure.

''We will continue to discuss the full range of funding options with the parties.''

Mrs Lockhart said despite the idea of a visitor levy being discussed numerous times over many years, the chamber's proposal was in its infancy.

It was one option mooted by the council in June to help fund the $60 million convention centre and the chamber board believed it was a ''painless way'' to raise funds for a variety of infrastructure, which could include the convention centre, easing the burden on ratepayers.

She told members on Tuesday night it would be a ''user pays'' system.

Yesterday, Mrs Lockhart said there were overseas models Queenstown could look to copy, which could include adding ''a few extra dollars'' to accommodation.

There have been no formal discussions with the Queenstown Lakes District Council to date, Mrs Lockhart said.

''There's a lot of work to be done with investigations [but] if we don't ask the question, then we don't get the answer.''

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Vanessa van Uden said the council would do whatever it could to help, provided it was what the community wanted.

Part of the discussion was to see if the idea was feasible.

''If it's not going to go anywhere, it's important we get that answer quite early.

''There's no point in this dragging on for years and years and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars if the answer's going to be 'no'.''

New Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay said he understood the chamber had been ''pushing for a visitor levy for some time'' and was ''obviously keen'' to discuss it.

''It's still early days, it's unclear exactly what the proposal is and I am still in the process of forming my view,'' he said.

Hotel Council Queenstown spokeswoman Penny Clark said the hotel council supported a visitor levy, but ''it's got to be fair''.

''It can't just be accommodation people that have got to take it on board.

''It's challenging for the economic brains of this town to think through how we're going to go about it.''



For the year ended September 2014 guest nights in Queenstown rose 8.5% to 2,952,161.

• International guest nights rose 8.7% to 1,930,558

• Domestic guest nights rose 8.2% to 1,021,603.

• The average length of stay rose from 2.6 nights to 2.63 nights

• Overall occupancy increased from 54.7% to 58.8%

Source: Statistics NZ commercial accommodation monitor



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