Road charging call

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A controversial solution to Queenstown’s traffic woes could be to introduce a congestion charge.

That’s the view of Local Government Forum secretary Nick Clark, who wants the council to embrace a mix of funding methods to offset pressures caused by high visitor numbers.

Clark says Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) is facing “acute infrastructure pressures” and needs to find other ways to fund its large spending bill.

“The reliance on property value rates is not helpful for QLDC or other ‘growth councils’.

“Other infrastructure options that might have merit – depending on how they are designed and implemented – include road pricing/congestion charging or, as a second best, regional fuel taxes.”

He says visitor levies could be difficult to bring in at a local level and bed taxes “can be fraught”.

He’s also calling for the council to seek further assistance from the government through grants and other means.

Councillor Alexa Forbes, infrastructure committee chair, agrees the “property rate funding model no longer serves us well”.

It needs reviewing, she says, but “we need to tax visitors”.

“My personal view is that these [congestion charges] are not the right solution at this point for QLD because in QLD, our main problem … is that we need to have visitors contribute more to the infrastructure required to support them.”

In its 2017 report, the Queenstown Transport Taskforce concluded the ratepayer base is not enough to maintain or expand existing infrastructure.

It recommended the CBD should be gradually pedestrianised and addi-tional funding options should be explored and secured, such as congestion charging.

Tighterparkingrestrictions are already in place.

Forbes adds that she doesn’t believe a bed tax would be difficult to implement locally.

Mayor Jim Boult is championing a bed tax policy to help fund tourism infrastructure across the district.

Council comms advisor Rebecca Pitts say the district authority’s lobbying government to share the burden “through existing and proposed funding mechanisms”.

joshua.walton@scene.co.nz