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Editorial

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.

Jim Boult
Mayor

- Jim Boult, Mayor
Comments
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  • Keep it Local

    While I don't disagree there needs to be an higher level of investment to bring necessary infrastructure up to a standard that is commiserate to the number of people residing or visiting the area ,I do have some real concerns about the Mayors vague guidance on how this visitor tax is going to be collected and more importantly how and were the extra cash flow is going to be allocated and by whom.
    Surely it has not escaped anyone's attention that this and previous council really don't have a great record of prudent planning and spending of ratepayer funds, how can we be assured that the funds collected are not going to be used to fund a big new council building with a multi story staff car park or subsidize CBD property owners by paying for the redevelopment of that area?
    Rather than take the easy option and hit up visitors with a bed tax which will no doubt capture funds from some but not all the visitors and users of services i.e Freedom Campers, Bach and Air B&B rentals ,the question also arises do you have a set dollar rate or is it a percentage of a bed night surely an person staying in a hostel should not be asked to pay the same as someone staying in a 5 star hotel?its also places a further burden on small accommodation providers.
    Why not look at doing a cost of sales percentage on those that use one the major activity's i.e Bungy,Ski Fields Gondolas and Jet boat Rides. The majority of these businesses are in great position because they operate out of tax or ratepayer owned property's with minimal rentals have tax funded infrastructure provided right to their operations and in the case of one major operator pay little or no tax. Surely they would be delighted to assist in the collection of any surcharges?
    At the end of the day before a date is set the Mayor should provide a full and comprehensive outline for us to consider before we cast our votes.

    Posted 12/03/2019 4:22pm (4 months ago)

  • Jane Shearer

    I agree with a visitor levy IF it is to bring the infrastructure I to a state that can support the current number of visitors, or fewer, but NOT if it is the wedge to further increase numbers of visitors. A levy can not mitigate many of the antisocial impacts of very large numbers of visitors, which we are all now experiencing.

    Posted 12/03/2019 8:43pm (4 months ago)

  • Jane Shearer

    I agree with a visitor levy IF it is to bring the infrastructure I to a state that can support the current number of visitors, or fewer, but NOT if it is the wedge to further increase numbers of visitors. A levy can not mitigate many of the antisocial impacts of very large numbers of visitors, which we are all now experiencing.

    Posted 12/03/2019 8:43pm (4 months ago)

  • Charlotte Mill

    QLDC needs to disclose its intended model for any so called 'visitor levy' before further comment or publicity on a referendum. To date, QLDC has only been talking about a bed tax that targets the formal accommodation sector. The formal accommodation sector already has a 3-5 times differential in its rates than other commercial businesses to pay. Adding another tax to the same sector is unfair, inequitable and in effect double taxation. QLDC does not have majority support from the accommodation sector for a bed tax. If there is to be a visitor levy in the district, it needs to be levied across all businesses that benefit from visitor income. There are currently 63 accommodation businesses that oppose the bed tax. The Productivity Commission has been set up to consider submissions on regional funding. Trying to push through a decision before the Productivity Commission has concluded due process makes a mockery of this process.
    The majority of ratepayers are not in the formal accommodation sector and will not be impacted by a bed tax and of course most ratepayers will vote for a bed tax if they are not directly affected. This is yet another unfair strategy by QLDC.

    Posted 13/03/2019 3:26pm (4 months ago)

  • Your Name Here

    So let me get this straight: tourists already spend a ludicrous amount of money with accommodation (if you think it’s expensive for locals imagine how abusive it is for tourists) they spend heaps with local tours, booze, rental cars and so on and now they’ll have to pay a ‘entrance fee’ as well?

    If I were a tourist I would take my business elsewhere and spread the news that other places are just as beautiful and at costs a fraction than it does here.
    And once things get really scarce I would like to see what will happen to local business and all those new buildings that are being built all over the place...

    Point being: there is over a billion dollars coming to Queenstown every year all where is this money going to? Because wages haven’t increased and me or my friends are not getting rich on the other hand new businesses are opening every now and then, some are expanding...
    So how about increasing businesses’ taxes and make it proportional to their earnings instead of charging a ‘entrance fee’..?

    Posted 14/03/2019 10:22am (4 months ago)

  • Daniel

    This is definitely a great idea. With the exception of a handful of accommodation providers pretty much everyone in the district supports it. Charlotte Mills' arguments above seem to suggest that the accommodation providers themselves will be paying this. They wont. It is a charge to be passed on to tourists and the fairest way of doing that so we only charge visitors is to target the accommodation. It is what every other city in the world that has a bed tax/ levy does.
    Your Name Here - if people are going to stay away from Queenstown because we are charging them another $5 a day then thats a great thing - they are clearly not the type of visitor we want. We want people who spend money not tight wads bludging off us locals.

    Posted 15/03/2019 2:34pm (4 months ago)