Pollie plans tax payback

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A political party is touting a novel way to fund Queenstown’s under-pressure infrastructure in the run-up to September’s election.

ACT proposes returning half the GST from the value of building consents to local councils to fund vital infrastructure projects.

“It would be for all areas, but the beauty of it is that it benefits areas of high growth [like Queenstown],” ACT leader David Seymour says.

With building consents in Otago valued at more than $3.5 billion last year, and with half of GST being 7.5 per cent, that means an extra $266m for Otago infrastructure, according to ACT.

“That’s a serious amount of money across the councils that would allow them to do a lot of the things they’ve been itching to do for a long time.

“Tourism is now the country’s single biggest earner, but the regions producing this profit aren’t allowed to keep the tax revenue needed to upgrade infrastructure.”

Seymour says the policy would also act as an incentive for councils to process consent applications, in turn clearing the way for more homes to be built.

Seymour scoffs at the National government’s announcement last week of a $1b housing infrastructure fund, almost $50m of which is targeted for two new Queenstown residential developments and one in Kingston.

“It’s cynical politics from the Nats.

“I mean, it’s almost worse than doing nothing because it allows them to say that they are addressing the problem.

“But first of all, it’s just nowhere near enough, and second of all, you still have to pay it back.”

Clutha-Southland Labour candidate Cherie Chapman, meanwhile, agrees there’s an urgent need to address infrastructure in places like Queenstown, but says “ACT’s idea of sacrificing GST on building consents is not the answer”.

GST is needed for essential services like hospitals, she argues.

“Labour’s policy is to change the way infrastructure is funded for new developments by tapping into international bonds and taking advantage of low-cost finance that only government can access.”

scoop@scene.co.nz