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Tourist levy proposed to help protect Queenstown community wellbeing

Tourist levy proposed to help protect Queenstown community wellbeing
March 13, 2019

Known as New Zealand’s ‘adventure capital’ and attracting 3.3 million visitors each year, officials in Queenstown are proposing the introduction of a $7.50 per visitor charge to fund infrastructure to help cope with its large numbers of tourists.

Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult says the pressure that high levels of tourism place on the town’s infrastructure “threatens to undermine the wellbeing of our communities”.

To protect this wellbeing, Mayor Boult plans to introduce a visitor levy, which he says will be directed towards desperately needed infrastructure to ease the burden on the District’s 24,000 ratepayers.

Queenstown residents are pushing ahead with a plan to charge international tourists for the privilege of visiting the area with Mayor Boult intending to hold an urgent, non-binding referendum on the charge, as tensions between locals and visitors increase.

Councillors have unanimously passed the plan for a non-binding referendum on the proposed visitor tax.

Queenstown is situated in the picturesque Southern Alps region of New Zealand’s South Island. No other city or district in New Zealand experiences a ratio of 34 international visitors per resident. Auckland has a ratio of one to one and Christchurch three to one.

Queenstown attracts large numbers of tourists due to its combination of natural beauty and adventure sports including skiing, bungee jumping and white water rafting.

However house prices and rentals are among the most expensive in the country, pricing out local families and workers, and infrastructure such as roads and public amenities are overwhelmed, with environmental ecosystems threatened.

As reported by The Guardian, Mayor Boult stated "the reality is we have around six million bed nights in the town a year, over three million individual visitors, 24,000 ratepayers - the model simply doesn't work, we cannot keep up the quality of infrastructure that we need to."

Mayor Boult suggested that the New Zealand tourism industry would suffer if Queenstown couldn't keep up.

The levy could generate roughly NZ$40 million for the council, Boult said, based on a charge of NZ$7.50 per visitor, per night, to be introduced by 2021 dependent on public backing.

The referendum is expected to cost $70,000.

If passed, it wouldn't the first visitor levy in New Zealand as Stewart Island has had one in place since 2013.

However it could also set a precedent for more regions to consider implementing a similar tax.

The plan echoes moves by the New Zealand Government to introduce a levy for the record-high visitor tourist numbers, with a charge of between $25 and  $35 to be introduced to all international tourists by the end of 2019.

New Zealand Housing and Urban Development Minister Phil Twyford said Queenstown had unique and “urgent” needs.

He advised “if a referendum shows there is clear support for a local visitor levy, the Government will consider any necessary legislation.” 

Image of AJ Hackett Bungy Jumping, one of the adventure attractions offered in Queenstown

Related Articles

4th March 2019 - International adventure tourism experts to converge on Queenstown

1st March 2019 - Skyline Queenstown gets approval for $100 million plus redevelopment

2nd January 2019 - iFly Queenstown enjoying successful first summer of operations

19th December 2018 - Jet boating pioneers celebrate 60 years of Queenstown adventure thrills

15th November 2018 - Global Eco conference to highlight tourism supporting conservation

3rd October 2018 - Overtourism leads to indefinite closure of iconic Thai bay

2nd July 2018 - Tourism businesses support new border tax

15th June 2018 - New Zealand Government announces tourism tax details

12th January 2018 - Company behind Queenstown skydiving accident ceases trading

9th December 2016 - NZRA supports proposed National Tourism Levy

3rd August 2016 - New Zealand Government backs AJ Hackett Bungy’s new Queenstown adventure experience

17th December 2009 - New adventure tourism activity zips to Queenstown

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