Levy on visitors rejected

A visitor levy to pay for Queenstown infrastructure looks to be a non-starter.

Tourism Minister Paula Bennett said she was aware of the pressure caused by the booming tourism industry, but ''I'm not convinced a bed tax or visitor levy is the right way to go about this''.

Paula Bennett.
Paula Bennett.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult, Clutha-Southland MP Todd Barclay, and Queenstown Chamber of Commerce have all supported charging visitors to improve the resort's creaking infrastructure.

Some 1.8million visitors passed through Queenstown Airport last year but there are only about 20,000 residents, along with businesses, to pick up the rates bill.

Ms Bennett, who met Mr Boult last week, said the pressure in some places was accepted, and ways this might be addressed were being looked at.

The Government was ''prepared to fund priority tourism infrastructure''.

Mr Boult, Mr Barclay and chamber chief executive Ann Lockhart all said they were encouraged by the minister's comments.

Mr Boult, who made visitor levy income a priority during last year's election campaign, had a ''very warm and collaborative'' meeting.

''What she's saying is she doesn't favour a tourism levy but she is opening the door to other ways of assisting high-growth tourism areas such as ours,'' he said. ''I'm perfectly relaxed as to what form some assistance should take and look forward to further engagement.''

The chamber and council commissioned Sapere Research Group to create a business case for a levy, which was presented to the minister.

It was being considered by the Government along with a McKinsey infrastructure report, commissioned by major tourism businesses including Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport.

Ms Lockhart said, ''I see it as still a work in progress. The positive of this is we are definitely on the radar.''

Mr Barclay said he had been bending ministers' ears about the issues since his election.

''I'm encouraged by minister Bennett's comments that there will be an avenue for our district to tap into more government funding, outside of conventional funding means.''

Ms Bennett highlighted the $5.5 million made available through the Regional Mid-sized Tourism Facilities Grant Fund.

Queenstown has not had money from that so far but central government has funded the Kawarau Falls bridge and other projects.

Ms Bennett has also said she was negotiating with Finance Minister Steven Joyce for more money for council infrastructure.

GST tourism receipts grew from $1.7 billion to $2.6 billion in recent years.

But she said some projects fell squarely to local government.

The Government was making $ 1billion available through its infrastructure fund but that was loan money which had to be repaid through development contributions.

Queenstown Lakes District Council will tomorrow consider charging landowners for the eastern access road.

It plans a 4.25% rates hike, while Otago Regional Council rates were likely to rise after it announced a $60 million spending plan.

Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter