Local Government New Zealand says sustainable and sufficient funding source for tourism infrastructure is vital and strongly supports a visitor levy as an equitable option for achieving this.
During the election the Labour party campaigned on charging international visitors a $25 per trip levy and Tourism Minister Hon Kelvin Davis has now asked officials to prepare advice on implementing a levy.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says a visitor levy is essential to help support the tourism industry and councils and communities facing pressure from booming tourism numbers to meet the infrastructure needs that come with an influx of people.
“A sustainable funding source that is fairly raised and allocated and applied to capital and operational expenditure, and maintenance, of tourism infrastructure is vital,” Mr Cull says. “Whatever its form, either a levy or portion of GST, we are now urging the government to partner with local government on details around how a new, sustainable funding mechanism will work, and variations of this for places like Queenstown where the need is different.
“There are many benefits for much of New Zealand from the growing tourism sector but its continued growth also brings a range of challenges, not least of which is paying for the infrastructure used by visitors but funded by local communities. Asking visitors who spend on average more than $3,000 over 19 days when they visit to contribute $25 to go towards the infrastructure they use when they are here is not unreasonable. LGNZ’s members have called for a share of GST be returned to the region it was earned as a possible solution.”
Mr Cull says many of New Zealand’s tourism hotspots have small ratepayer bases and funding water systems, roads, toilets, pathways and other infrastructure used by numbers much greater than the resident population should not fall solely on them.
Queenstown is a key example and Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult says a contribution from its visitors to help fund key infrastructure used by tourists is becoming urgent.
“We've got a massive infrastructure spend in front of us created largely by burgeoning tourism and the district’s small ratepayer population needs some form of new model to meet this challenge,” Mr Boult says.
“We urgently need new legislative tools, such as a visitor levy, to help build the infrastructure Queenstown needs.”
LGNZ looks forward to working with the Government to develop the form and allocation of funding for tourism infrastructure.