Anti-bed tax lobby fills war chest

Thousands of dollars will be poured into a lobbying campaign against Queenstown's proposed visitor levy, as opposition mobilises.

About 30 people, mainly from the visitor accommodation sector, attended a Lakes District Tax Equity Group meeting in the resort yesterday to discuss the Queenstown Lakes District Council's forthcoming visitor levy referendum, which was announced in early March.

The group, started by Villa Del Lago Hotel owner Nik Kiddle, is strongly opposed to a bed tax, a version of which appears to be the council's preferred visitory levy model.

The group has about 128 members.

A major focus of the meeting was how to push back against the levy proposal, and how to finance such a campaign.

Wanaka businessman Peter Sutherland, who co-owns The Moorings motel and apartments, said he estimated the costs related to lobbying activities would be about $12,600. This covered advertising and flights to Wellington to lobby officials.

He called for a voluntary donation of $100 per member to help cover costs.

Many in the crowd thought that was not enough, with a $250 donation suggested instead.

The group also canvassed potential alternatives to a bed tax model.

Mr Kiddle said the preferred option would be GST revenue from visitor expenditure being rebated, which would be ''very easy to do''.

''It's a stroke-of-the-pen decision,'' he said.

''We need to shout it from the rooftops, because we're not really being heard.''

That was also the model preferred by Tourism Industry Aotearoa.

Another option was a new tourism sector visitor levy that would be spread acrossindustries, not just accommodation.

When the referendum for June 5 was first announced the council neither revealed its preferred model, nor what question the public would be asked to vote on.

Mayor Jim Boult said in a press release late last month the preferred option was a targeted levy which included all expenditure on short-term accommodation in the district.

It would likely be a percentage-based levy of up to 10%.

Details regarding the exact percentage and collection method would be outlined in materials that would accompany the voting papers.

The council did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.


What Wellington officials will be lobbied?

A levy on all tourist activity is not really a goer.

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