Tourists already paying ‘more than their fair share’

Act Leader David Seymour in Queenstown last week. PHOTO: PHILIP CHANDLER
Act Leader David Seymour in Queenstown last week. PHOTO: PHILIP CHANDLER
Act party leader David Seymour, who is in coalition with the National-led government, is opposed to a visitor levy to fund urgently-needed local infrastructure.

However, that money could come from central government sharing revenue with local government, he told Mountain Scene during a Queenstown visit last week.

As to why visitors should not stump up, as they do in many countries, Mr Seymour said "look, I sympathise with the problem, but we don’t need a new tax to solve it".

"Tourists are already paying through GST and the international visitor levy at the New Zealand border more than their fair share, more than they use."

Mr Seymour said Act’s GST-sharing scheme, in which councils consenting housing would get half the GST back to pay for infrastructure, "would massively help Queenstown with the problem it faces".

"Fundamentally, there used to be a shortage of workers, now there’s enough workers, but nowhere for them to stay.

"People would build more houses, but they’re not viable because there’s no infrastructure connections.

"And there’s no infrastructure connections because if the council allows the construction to happen, it doesn’t get the money."

However, whether the government can afford to start the policy would not be revealed until the May 30 Budget, he said.

Mr Seymour also believed he could solve the shortage of worker digs due to landlords Airbnbing their residential homes.

The first step was to apply GST to all Airbnb bookings from the start of this month, he said.

Secondly, under the Act coalition agreement there would be a number of changes to residential tenancies allowing, for example, fixed-term tenancies, "so you can rent out for six months and you don’t have as much demand for Airbnb".

"So I think what you’ll see is more long-term stays for workers and less Airbnb competition with hotels.

"So the Residential Tenancies Act changes will be probably better for Queenstown than any other area" — though they had not yet been announced by the government.

Meanwhile, Mr Seymour calls his new Queenstown-based list MP, Todd Stephenson, "the pocket rocket".

"I’d say Todd would be the most effective MP per inch in Parliament."