Have your say on the visitor levy
April 15 2019 by Mayor Jim Boult
Have your say on the visitor levy
If we were in the States, instead of reading this you might be watching a slick TV advertisement starring a high profile Hollywood type encouraging you to vote. Well we can’t afford that. I’m here though, in black and white print, strongly urging the residents of the Queenstown Lakes District to vote in the upcoming referendum and have your say on the proposed visitor levy.
We haven’t held a referendum in this district before. The fact that we have been given the go ahead to hold one speaks to the gravity of the issues we are facing. The residents and ratepayers of this district have long carried the cost of hosting more than three million visitors coming to Queenstown Lakes District annually. The New Zealand economy cannot afford a diminished visitor experience here – we are propping up the country’s largest industry, yet when our ratepayers are outnumbered 1: 34 by international visitors and one third of all infrastructure costs are linked to the demand caused by those visitors, it is unsustainable and untenable for thirty six thousand ratepayers to shoulder the burden of providing roads, water, waste water and facilities for them. The 5 June referendum gives us a one-time only opportunity to introduce a new funding model; one that could significantly change the way the district funds capital projects, things that affect your daily life here such as traffic, parking and recreation reserves. It’s vital we make the most of this opportunity because if we blow it, I’m sure we’ll never get the chance again.
Why a visitor levy? With this levy we are asking the vast amount of visitors we host, to contribute towards the infrastructure they use while they are here. It’s a model that is seen in many places around the world. Chances are you’ve been charged one yourself but as a small percentage of your accommodation costs, it hardly hits the radar. Research supports our theory that an accommodation-based levy rather than a wider industry levy will get us to the target amount required to build and maintain the infrastructure we need without further penalising our locals. The reality is that the only commercial activity that is largely not used by residents is commercial accommodation. Practically every business in our district benefits from the tourism industry in some form so while attraction operators are definitely in the tourism business, so are the gas stations, the supermarkets, the retailers, the restaurants etc. We simply do not want our locals to end up paying again.
This model ensures that it’s the visitors who are making the additional contribution, not the accommodation or service provider. The accommodation provider would only be the point of collection and we’re working to ensure it’s clearly separated from the direct accommodation charges, along the lines of how GST is apportioned today. There has been commentary around adding growth-based questions to the referendum. It’s taken two and a half years of lobbying two different governments with vast amounts of research and investment to finally be given the ability to ask one question. This referendum covers enabling the Queenstown Lakes District to fund itself. That’s all. I ask everyone from Makarora to Kingston to use your power. Vote on 5 June
Mayor Jim Boult