Quarter of levy votes cast

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With less than a week left to vote, just over a quarter of Queenstown Lakes residents have had their say on the proposed visitor levy.

As of yesterday morning the return stood at 27.3 per cent, or 6418 votes received, council comms boss Naell Crosby-Roe confirms.

That figure doesn’t include special votes that have been made at council offices and have yet to be counted, which are expected to add a further one to two per cent to the tally.

“To put this in context a final participation rate for a non-binding referendum of 30 per cent is considered as a strong return, so with voting closing on June 5 we are hopeful to exceed that,” Crosby-Roe says.

“However, mayor Boult and the council as a whole would still encourage all voters to participate and not assume a result one way or the other.”

Earlier this month, Boult said the government had not indicated the level of support it wanted to see in the referendum.

But he wanted “very strong” support from voters.

It had taken two-and-a-half years of “intense lobbying” of politicians and government officials to get to this point, and it was important people had their say. A levy of five per cent, to be gathered by accommodation providers, is proposed.

It’s generated strong criticism from a vocal group of accommodation business owners, who have pumped money into a campaign against it.

This week the council has published detailed answers to questions from Chamber of Commerce members about the levy on its website.

They go into much more technical detail than had been previously released, on issues such as how the model was chosen and the economic impact of the levy.

They also deny the accommodation sector is being “targeted”, as opponents to the levy have suggested.

“There are clear advantages of having a wider base depending on the size of the wider base and the possible reduction this would allow in the levy rate.

“However, analysis suggests the proposed levy should be based on short-term accommodation (and non-voluntary fees) only.”

Today is the final day for posting votes. After that they can be delivered by hand to the council offices.