Levy call ‘likely’ before election

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The government expects to decide within a year whether Queenstown Lakes and other district councils can charge visitor levies.

A spokeswoman for Prime Minister John Key says the government is waiting for a private sector review to be completed.

However, it’s “likely” to reach a decision before next year’s general election.

The Otago Daily Times sought comment from Mr Key after Queenstown Chamber of Commerce boss Ann Lockhart said last Thursday she was “not holding my breath” on the government’s making up its mind before the election.

Speaking at the chamber’s annual meeting last Thursday, Lockhart said a consultancy company had completed the draft of a business case for a Queenstown visitor levy.

However, it would not be presented to the government until two pieces of independent research were available.

Major tourism companies including Air New Zealand and Auckland Airport have commissioned consultancy firm McKinsey & Company to carry out international research into funding models for tourism infrastructure.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa is also leading the development of a “national infrastructure assessment for tourism” that is intended to complement the private sector research.

Lockhart says targeted or general rates are “not necessarily the fairest and most efficient way” to fund infrastructure projects in Queenstown.

The resort is second only to Auckland as a tourist centre, with about 3.5 million guest nights in the year to October.

Lockhart: “That is a huge number for a ratepayer base of 20,000 people.”

The pressure on ratepayers is “out of all proportion with anywhere else in New Zealand”, she says, and would only worsen if growth in visitor numbers continues at its present rate.

The resort needs to improve its facilities and services to cater for growth, she says.

“It’s absolutely critical we maintain our reputation in a highly competitive global market.”

Otago Daily Times