Queenstown’s council is preparing to lobby the government for a resort visitor levy.
The levy idea was revealed this week by mayor Vanessa van Uden, responding to Mountain Scene enquiries about her council’s controversial plans for a $70 million CBD convention centre.
Van Uden says the council has submitted “a funding business case” on the centre to the government, noting John Key’s supportive comments last Friday during the PM’s Winter Festival visit.
The mayor adds: “We are also - as a result of discussions with the government - preparing a case for a visitor levy to be created for Queenstown.”
The Chamber of Commerce is helping pull the proposal together, Van Uden says.
Last week, John Key acknowledged the pressure on Queenstown’s infrastructure and said a cash contribution from the government towards a council-backed convention centre could ease the burden on ratepayers.
Key has previously noted Treasury’s concern about a Queenstown visitor levy setting a precedent other centres would also demand to follow.
A reliable source says when completed, the proposal to the government will concentrate purely on Queenstown’s justification for a levy.
Presently, the Wakatipu’s permanent population of about 18,000 must fund the infrastructure required to host two million visitors annually – about 65 per cent foreign and 35 per cent Kiwi.
The most likely form of levy could be a so-called “bed tax” collected by hotels, motels and B&Bs.
Mountain Scene asked Van Uden how the levy might be collected, how much might be charged per person, whether Kiwi as well as foreign visitors would be taxed and how much the levy might raise annually.
Van Uden says she’s unable to give details because planning is at “a very, very early stage”.
Nevertheless, she says, the levy “would likely be for capital costs impacted by visitors being here - as opposed to those costs which are fairly attributable to the people living here”.
On that basis, as well as part-funding the new convention centre, the visitor levy might also contribute to council infrastructure such as roading, water and sewerage systems.
The mayor also reveals council will pitch Treasury as well as the government.
Todd Barclay says he’s been pushing for a visitor levy for Queenstown since he was elected Clutha-Southland MP.
“The council play a key part in the process as they manage the rating system, but what I’m assisting the Chamber of Commerce to put to central government is a business proposal that addresses a challenge which is unique to Queenstown.”
In April, some Queenstown business owners said they were worried about the escalating cost of the council-backed convention centre proposal - which fuelled the bed tax debate.