More than 70 businesses opposed to ‘bed tax’, says operator

Nik Kiddle
Nik Kiddle
A Queenstown accommodation provider says more than 70 businesses are opposed to a local visitor levy, or bed tax, for the district.

Last week, the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce released the results of an informal survey, filled out by 111 people, which showed 81% were in favour of a local levy targeting businesses only.

However, Villa del Largo co-owner Nik Kiddle said he had a list of 47 individual businesses and associations, representing more than 70 businesses, opposed to a bed tax.

"What we would probably like to see is for the burden of any new tax spread amongst all the businesses in town that benefit from visitors.

"We still think it’s grossly unfair and very inequitable to just be levying additional tax on one subsector of the economy."

Mr Kiddle said accommodation providers already paid a rating differential of "three to five times other commercial ratepayers in the district" and said the "very least" the Queenstown Lakes District Council could do would be lift the commercial ratepayers’ differential to the same level to "help spread the burden a wee bit".

His preference, however, would be to petition the government for a GST rebate on the international visitor spend.

While Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said he had asked about a rebate on "numerous occasions" and received an "unequivocal ‘no’,", Mr Kiddle did not believe there had been a "serious effort" put in to argue for that.

"Every single piece of paper that I’ve seen that they [the council] have put to Government does not mention this.

"They haven’t effectively lobbied for it.

"It doesn’t even require new legislation — it’s fair and equitable, the return’s exactly the kind of volume of money back to the local council that [Mr Boult] thinks he needs and it’s not going to distort the local economy."

If, however, the Government authorised a legislative change to enable a local visitor levy to be introduced, Mr Kiddle said his group would "very clearly" seek a caveat to ensure it was applied equitably across the district and did not fall disproportionately on one subsector of the economy.

Chamber chief executive Ann Lockhart said investigations around a local visitor levy had been on going for "at least" four years.

Included in the work was a report by Sapere, commissioned by the chamber and the council: "What they point out in that report is that in terms of being able to financially support the required infrastructure for the number of visitors that we have is unprecedented in New Zealand," Mrs Lockhart said.

"They make the remark that the pressure on Queenstown Lakes infrastructure ...  is the equivalent of Auckland hosting the Rugby World Cup every single day of the year.

"So we think that the case [for a local visitor levy] is compelling."

Work on how any proposed local visitor levy may be implemented would not begin until there was a clear indication from the Government it would support the required legislation change.

"One of the reasons that we haven’t gone into detail about that [the mechanism], is because we need to have the intent — or the Government needs to allow a change in legislation — to allow this to happen.

"What we didn’t want to have ... was an argument between stakeholders about how to implement a levy, when we’re not able to do that yet.

"This is a problem which we have been discussing for 30 years — it’s time to move forward," Mrs Lockhart said.

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