Visitor Levy for Queenstown
March 11 2019 by Jim Boult, Mayor
Thursday was an historic day for our district. You may have heard that Council announced it is holding a non-binding district-wide referendum, the first step in delivering a local visitor levy. And it literally was the first step. It takes 90 days to hold an independent referendum and it will take a referendum for Government to consider a law change. We are now finalising the detail because the next critical step is honing how it will work. What’s great is the incredible support this announcement has engendered. Thanks to all who have been in touch. We’ll all get our chance to have a vote on this (voting forms will go out mid-May and close the first week of June), and my hope is we do so being absolutely clear about what’s on the table. When we land on the model and all the machinations of how it will work, you will be the first to know. It’s critical we give our communities ample opportunity to get informed.
If the community supports the levy, Central Government has undertaken to consider the law changes that will mean that the three million people who visit the district each year will contribute. They will pay a small but fair contribution to the enormous cost of roads, water supply, wastewater systems, parks and reserves and other infrastructure an enjoyable visit here relies on. This levy would be unique to our district, given the distinct challenges we face as the number one tourism destination in Aotearoa New Zealand. Our ratio of 1:34 residents to international visitors is one of the highest in the world and the burden on the district’s ratepayers to keep up with the investment required to facilitate them, is impossible to carry for 24,000 ratepayers.
We are a relatively small population but our importance to the national economy is immense. Tourism employs around ten percent of the country’s workforce. Visitors, are sold on this country by images of the Queenstown Lakes. ‘That’ Wanaka tree, our adventure tourism offering, our fine dining and wine, our pristine wilderness and spectacular alpine environment – Google New Zealand and that’s what you see. After lobbying (two) governments since my election in 2016, it’s a huge relief to have gained the recognition that our district’s challenges are unique, and that a commitment to investment here is vital for a sustainable tourism industry. What we are not asking for is a handout. We have submitted a strong case for a funding model that supports infrastructure investment without further burdening our residents and rate payers, many of whom already face higher costs of living than other kiwis.
Quite simply, we can’t do this without your support. Thanks very much to everyone who has reached out to say you’re behind it one hundred percent. I strongly encourage all residents and ratepayers to get involved and be part of this historic solution.