Visitor levy to remain at $5 per person

Gary Tong.
Gary Tong.
The Southland District Council will retain the Stewart Island visitor levy at $5 for the moment but will continue to investigate whether it needs to be raised.

The council sparked a heated debate over the past three months when it proposed bumping the levy from $5 up to $15 to help with Stewart Island's tourism infrastructure.

More than 120 submissions were put to the council when it put the proposal out for public consultation.

Most were against the move to triple the levy, including tourism operators who believed the increase might put people off visiting Stewart Island.

At a council meeting yesterday councillors voted to retain the levy at $5.

Councillors decided against an increase while a review into Stewart Island's sustainability was carried out.

Sarah Dowie
Sarah Dowie
Mayor Gary Tong said it would be an independent review and could take up to 18 months to be completed.

From the review findings the council would decide if a levy increase should be reconsidered.

Mr Tong acknowledged it was not ideal to continue to keep tourism operators guessing whether the levy would be increased, considering those operators often had bookings two years in advance.

However, he believed the review would be beneficial for Stewart Island long-term.

Mr Tong said there were challenges when it came to funding Stewart Island's operations given it had a ratepayer base of just 400.

The Stewart Island visitor levy has collected $710,659 during the past six years.

Invercargill MP Sarah Dowie was pleased the levy had stayed at $5.

''Stewart Island has the country's only regional tourist tax. To triple it could be a deterrent to visitors who are the lifeblood of the island.''

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