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Editorial

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

- Mayor Jim Boult
Comments
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  • Over&Out

    Hi Jim
    How difficult would it be to insert the following question in your survey.

    Q Do you want to allow this or successive councils to continue the policy of unbridled growth before suitable and sustainable infrastructure is available.

    We know of course that their is little likely hood this seeing the like of day, in the main because you already know what the ratepayers response will be and that it will not suit those special interest groups that wish exploit the area and its residents for their own nefarious interests.

    No doubt the deal has already been struck with the tax crazy mob that currently who mainly through good luck have manged to obtain the central government prize. That this council hope either through apathy and or not providing a full accounting of how the money will be spent, that it will somehow slip through,giving this and future councils an unbridled mandate to move forward on an ever expanding wish list of expansion or vanity projects

    If the tax does see the light of day and the councils coffers start overflowing and somehow the current infrastructure problems are resolved this will no doubt encourage even further development and problems and on it goes in a never ending cycle.

    Won't it be more prudent and democratic ,that before we go down this fiasco of a referendum ,that the ratepayers and the ratepayers only are given an opportunity to decided whether we want further unfretted development or a quality of life balance that most of us aspire to for our self's and future generations. Somehow I however regret to say the horse has already Bolted.


    Posted 15/04/2019 4:32pm (2 months ago)

  • Jimmynoshoes

    Diminished visitor experience?, already there Jim. I have noticed the declining visitors and declining stay length Queenstown - we could have had stable numbers for years, instead you and other councils have gone for the growth path. Quiet simple it’s way too late to turn back the clock. The desecration of a quaint place now ripped to pieces by the neoliberal vultures who proclaim they are providing jobs and accomodation to the workers. But only if the Government allow access to poor countries workers who will live in a house that pays the bosses mortgages - 1800s slave plantations comes to mind. Maybe think about that on your next hour drive into town. I’m happy this government is ignoring the blackmailing of ‘we are special because tourists come here’. Enjoy the decline, I think it’s funny because of how predictable it was. New Zealand Government and it’s economists will find another industry to make money off before it tries to save Queenstown from itself.

    Posted 15/04/2019 7:38pm (2 months ago)

  • Daniel

    Great idea to get out and vote - and hopefully most will vote yes. Dis-regarding the issues raised by OverNOut and Jimmy NoShoes above, this is about whether we get tourists to pay the cost of their stay, not whether Queenstown has become a less desirable place to live than it was 15 years ago. I have been paying for tourists to come here for over 20 years so it's time the tourists started paying for some of their own expenses. Vote YES!

    Posted 16/04/2019 1:30pm (2 months ago)

  • Ian William

    If there are 35 tourists to 1 residents why are residents paying anything towards local rates as it looks like us residents only represent 2.7% of the daily population.

    The mislead facts from council implying their are 35 visitors to 1 residents is a complete liar to the general public. To suggest this fact states that on an average day their are 1.4 million visitors to 27000 residents, in which unless you are living under a rock is unfounded and unbelievable the mayor is pushing this stat. If every other NZ mayor pushed this stat we would find Lake Tekapo and Franz Josef has about 200 tourists to 1 resident. Franz Josefs Mayor has set an example of honesty by not wading into this unfounded and bent truth argument.

    There is 1.4 million guest arrivals over a 365 days (1.4mil divided by 365 days). This gives is a more rounded figure of 3835 daily tourist arrivals reversing the 35 to 1, to a more believable 1:7 (1 visitor to 7 residents). Wanaka gets 1:10 so the argument is now lost for QLDC around the 35 to 1, plus if you add the non paying 5800 campervan tourists going through Wanaka the result gets even worse with 1:14 (1 paying tourist to 13 residents and 6 campervans).

    The accommodation providers are not jumping up and down for no reason. The reason is because council is not telling the truth correctly and thus is pushing its own agenda on small group of 200 accommodation providers. How can anyone believe what comes out of QLDC mouth from now on. Accommodation providers believe they can pass on 10% for 3 months of peak season, but for other 9 months of shoulder and season will see them absorbing the 10% bed tax as an operational expense. Unless we agree to price fix, we compete in a free market and public figures should not be encouraging operators to price fix by using non dynamic pricing (doesn't respond to supply and demand).

    When the stats show only 14% of tourism money in spent on accommodation, their needs to be a talk around what is the fairest way of collecting money from the other 86% of tourism spending not whats the easiest way of getting this 86% through someone else. Its widely known the filter down effect doesn't when it comes to the economy and money. Is this 10% Bed tax a "Robin Hood Tax effect"

    Posted 22/04/2019 3:15pm (2 months ago)

  • Peter Sutherland

    There has not been any economic analysis of the bed tax proposal. The Mayor says it will not cause any adverse effects to the accomodation providers businesses.
    Everyone knows if you put the price up demand will fall.
    The Mayor is using his trusted position to mislead the ratepayers.
    GST collected in the last year from the tourist spend in the QLDC was an incredible $437 million. They are already paying their way.
    The problem is Central Government is under funding the regions.

    Posted 22/04/2019 6:45pm (2 months ago)

  • Daniel

    OK @Ian William and @Peter Sutherland - so who should pay for the cost of all these tourists? You can't levy all businesses since that will also target local residents so the only option is to ask the accommodation providers to collect the money on behalf of our council. The central government won't share the GST collected from tourists and I don't want to pay any more rates just so some more backpackers can stay here without paying their own way.
    I seriously can't understand why anyone is against this idea - it's not the accommodation providers who will pay, they are just collecting the money and the money collected will benefit all local residents. If some low budget tourists won't come to Queenstown because they have to pay another $10-15 a night thats great - we don't want low spending tourists here anyway. Greedy hotel GM's have put their rack rates up over 100% in the past 3-4 years so if the are that concerned they could trim back their hugely increased profit margin.

    Posted 23/04/2019 10:28am (2 months ago)