Minister: bed tax for resort only

Visitors wait to board the ever-popular Earnslaw, as a load disembarks. Photo: ODT
Visitors wait to board the ever-popular Earnslaw, as a load disembarks. Photo: ODT
Any bed tax for Queenstown would be for Queenstown alone, the Tourism Minister says.

"I'm not going to have the Far North District Council saying we want one too," Kelvin Davis said at the Trenz tourism conference in Rotorua yesterday.

"It's just not going to happen."

Mr Davis reiterated an indication earlier given by Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford that the Government could support the move, if a referendum this month backed the plan.

Mr Davis would not say if the Government would respond with legislation change to allow the visitor levy, but he did describe Queenstown as "a special place" that needed to be protected.

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said that was "totally consistent" with what he had heard from a number of ministers.

"I am very confident they will listen to us, providing we get the support in the referendum."

The Queenstown Lakes District Council has proposed a 5% visitor levy that would raise $22.5million a year for easing the burden of infrastructure on ratepayers.

It had wanted an 8.3% levy, but consultation with the accommodation sector had convinced the council to go with the lower level.

For a $250 a night hotel room, that equated to $12.50, or $6.25 if shared by two people.

The council announced on March 7 it would hold a non-binding referendum for residents and ratepayers on the levy. Voting papers are being sent to households this week.

The levy would not be introduced before July 1, 2021.

The council would require a Government legislation change for the levy to be put in place.

Mr Davis agreed yesterday somebody had to pay for the infrastructure issues Queenstown faced.

He planned to wait and see what the results of the referendum were before deciding on the Government's response.

He said the town would be the only one to be allowed a bed tax if it was approved by the community, as Queenstown was "a special place".

"It's the jewel in our tourism crown, we've got to protect it. If we don't, it's going to have an impact on tourism across New Zealand."

Asked if those comments meant he saw Queenstown as a place a bed tax might be an option, he said "we'll see what the referendum says".


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