Levy vote turnout announced

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Queenstown mayor Jim Boult has thanked people who voted in the visitor levy referendum – with the result due to be announced by Monday.

The provisional turnout was 38 per cent but that did not include special votes or many votes hand-delivered just before voting closed at noon yesterday.

Boult, in a council press release, says: “The final count is still under way, and I am very much looking forward to seeing the result and sharing it with the community.”

The release says even a 30 per cent response for a non-binding referendum is considered “strong”.

The non-binding referendum only needs 50 per cent-plus approval to be passed up to the government for consideration, but Boult’s on record as wanting “very strong” community support.

Queenstown hotelier Nik Kiddle, who led an anti-levy lobby group with more than 130 members, is pleased there’s been a good turnout.

“It’s good the community is making its views known, that’s important.”

But the result’s a “foregone conclusion” – overwhelming support for a levy, he says.

“But we did think it was important there was an avenue for businesses to be heard. We’re confident we got our point of view across.”

Council boss Mike Theelen says it decided to complete a final count before announcing the result, which will be confirmed by elections.com by Monday.

“A large number of votes have come in, right up to the voting deadline.”

If the final result shows strong support, Boult will formally present the council’s proposal to the government and ask for enabling legislation, Theelen says.

“The timeline for this and details of the subsequent work programme will be publicly available once confirmed.”

Set at five per cent, the levy would apply to all accommodation providers – including peer-to-peer platforms like Airbnb – and raise an estimated $22.5 million a year at current visitor numbers.

The council reckons that will fund all the district’s visitor-related capital costs, and about a third of the operational costs.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz