Queenstown Lakes District likely to hold referendum on Visitor Levy

Queenstown Lakes mayor Jim Boult. PHOTO: TRACEY ROXBURGH

Queenstown Lakes District Council Mayor Jim Boult has today (March 7th) announced to media that his council will look to initiating a non-binding citizens referendum to look at the issue of instigating a Visitor Levy.

?Queenstown Lakes has one of highest visitor-to-resident ratios in the world.
“No other city or district in New Zealand experiences the ratio of 34 international visitors per resident. By comparison
the Auckland ratio is one to one and Christchurch is three to one,” Mayor Boult said.

The pressure of funding a premier international destination by 24,000 ratepayers was “unsustainable”, he said.
“While Queenstown Lakes is a place synonymous with wealth and luxury, at the heart of the district are communities where people are struggling to find affordable housing and traffic is a growing challenge.
“The council has been clear that the ability of the district?s community to support growth in Queenstown Lakes through rates alone is simply not possible.”

QLDC Facebook post 07/03/19

The introduction of some form of levy to help pay for infrastructure was a cornerstone of Boult’s mayoral campaign, and I believe that if residents get invested in this referendum, it will likely be supported.

The issue of a visitor levy has come up many times in the past, with strong arguments in support from many residents who see the impact from the massive daily influx of tourists. Similarly, there are arguments against its introduction, often based around the supposition that such a levy will hinder tourism.

I have recently been booking accommodation and flights for various foreign cities. I would estimate that about 90% of those bookings have attracted visitor levies, some of which, such as in Dubai, are quite expensive.

This is just part of the deal. These levies have been the norm overseas for many decades; in fact there are usually multiple taxes added on. Not one of them has stopped me making the trip, and for some, such as in Greece, the areas desperately need the boost, so I am happy to pay these fees for the privilege of touring their areas.

It is expected that $30 to $40 million per year could be raised to help the QLDC area pay for their rapidly deteriorating infrastructure. The nuts and bolts are still to be worked out in relation to how the new tax will be gathered, but it is likely to be in the form of a bed tax or airport levy.

Boult advises that the current government are supportive of the need for this new levy, but of course there is no such thing as a tax that socialists don’t like. I’m with them on this one.