Focus on international visitor levy

Finance Minister Nicola Willis is putting her stocks in proposals to increase the money collected through the international visitor levy, and says there is no support from any of the coalition parties to revisit a bed tax.

She spoke to Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce members yesterday and was set to have a discussion with Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Glyn Lewers.

When taking questions after her speech to the chamber, Mrs Willis said there was a focus on increasing the international levy on tourists for the government and work was going forward on that.

Act New Zealand had also got into the coalition agreement that it would be looking at an another scheme to fund councils such as Queenstown Lakes which were struggling with growth and high tourist numbers.

The policy was centred around funding half of the GST on the sale of new houses to certain territorial authorities.

Policy was progressing but none of the three coalition parties were supporting the bed tax, she said.

But she was aware of the concerns in Queenstown and would take those thoughts back to Wellington.

Finance Minister Nicola Willis speaks to the Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce yesterday....
Finance Minister Nicola Willis speaks to the Queenstown Business Chamber of Commerce yesterday. PHOTO: RHYVA VAN ONSELEN
At the moment a bed tax was not a policy, so as a minister she was not considering it.

Mrs Willis acknowledged there were specific needs in Queenstown and the government was talking about things such as infrastructure and how it could be better.

The system was "a bit clunky" as it stood.

It should be easier for developers to be able to contribute to the cost of things needed for development.

She stood firm when questioned about cancer drugs and said the government was hit by a significant hole in the Pharmac budget left by the previous government and it had to look long term.

Queenstown was in the midst of a housing crisis but there were only a handful of Kainga Ora properties in the region.

The approach the government favoured was to use various community social housing trusts to develop housing. The Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust was included in that.

She was happy with the Budget she delivered last week.

Next year’s Budget would have more of a theme around social services, but this year was about getting the books in order and making savings where possible, she said.