Jim Boult is already talking to central government about a visitor levy for Queenstown.
The local mayoral hopeful (right), one of five candidates for the district’s top job, is a former boss of Christchurch International Airport who chairs the government’s Tourism Growth Partnership group – giving him easy access to the Beehive.
Boult tells Mountain Scene his talks are at a political level.
“They are initial discussions and it’s too early to say whether that’s likely to lead to something more positive or not.
“But it will certainly be something I’ll be pursuing further if I am lucky enough to be elected.”
He wouldn’t say if he’d talked to MPs, cabinet ministers or even Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key – just “politicians”.
He confirms he didn’t see Key when he was in town last month, when the PM said the government needs to “do more and spend more” in Queenstown.
Boult rates a visitor levy as one of his top priorities – a “lubricant” allowing things to happen.
Many people see the levy, or bed tax, as a way of the council, collecting rates from a population of about 30,000 people, coping with the influx of almost three million tourists a year.
“My hope is that a worthwhile source of income from a visitor levy will enable us to address a number of the pressing issues that we have in the town, such as traffic and transport.”
The Chamber of Commerce has been beavering away on a visitor levy plan for more than a year.
Boult says he hasn’t seen its work but it would be a “useful place to start”.
He warns: “There’s a lot of work to do before you would see some form of visitor levy introduced.”
If it does happen, he says it’s worth remembering it’s a “visitor” levy – to be primarily spent on infrastructure for visitors.
“Let’s not get too excited about it until it’s reality.”
Boult’s not the only one out of the blocks early.
Mayoral rival Roger Tompkins says he’s already talking to developers about worker housing.