Queenstown ‘testing water’ on tourism tax – mayor

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Queenstown’s mayor says using a tourist tax to help fund a convention centre is something she’s “testing the water on”.

Queenstown Lakes District Council was early this week on the verge of sending a formal letter to Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key requesting support for a proposed $50 million convention centre.

Council chief executive Adam Feeley and Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden wouldn’t discuss specific details of it, saying it’s still in draft form and it’d be a courtesy to let the recipient read it first.

However, what council wants from the Government has been well forecast – and the letter’s contents are likely to include a request for $10m or more in funding plus potential legislative change to enable preferred operator>

SkyCity Entertainment Group to combine and shift two downtown casino licences to the proposed centre’s favoured site up Man Street.

It’s also likely to include a request for a law change to enable consideration of a visitor levy or bed tax – and re-elected mayor Van Uden says consideration of a visitor levy should be no surprise, as an earlier council-commissioned analysis of options suggested a hotel bed tax as a potential funding method.

“It was always identified as one of the options we’d need to investigate,” she says.

“That’s all it is. How the Prime Minister’s office answers that, that’s fine and we’ll continue on with the discussion.

In my opinion what we undertook to the community was to do everything we can to find the best way to fund this centre and get it off the ground.”

Van Uden adds: “What we’re doing is testing the water.”