We’ll be the lab rats – Mayor


Queenstown could be used as a guinea pig for a national tourist tax, the mayor says.

Jim Boult and City Hall boss Mike Theelen are meeting government ministers next week to talk shop about the resort’s infrastructure woes.

A visitor levy is at the top of the priority list for the watershed meeting.

Other big-ticket items to discuss with Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, Housing and Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Finance Minister Grant Robertson include housing, traffic, transport and freedom camping.

“A visitor levy is prime on our list because as things sit at the present time, without an enormous increase in rates, I cannot see how the district can pay for the infrastructure that it will need over the next 10 years.”

He recognises the government has already hinted at a border tax.

But Boult says it won’t cut the mustard financially.

“My proposal is that the government look at a visitor levy and put some work into figuring out how it may be collected. It could be national or they could consider us to be a good place to trial a system individually.”

Boult describes it as “unreasonable” to expect Queenstowners to stump up cash needed for vital infrastructure through rates.

A visitor levy, or bed tax, has been mooted before but the former National government failed to give it the green light.

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce supports the call.

Boult says a number of key milestones have already been ticked off including the opening of the two-lane Kawarau Falls Bridge and the new Wakatipu High School.

But he says he isn’t taking his foot off the pedal and wants progress on the double-laning of the remainder of State Highway 6 at the BP roundabout and progress on Queenstown’s proposed town centre arterial route.

He worries the resort’s visitor experience will be damaged if government fails to introduce a levy.

“We need to start work on this and I will be disappointed if it cannot be delivered in the next 12 months.

“The hard reality is that if we don’t get a levy of some description then we won’t be able to do the things we need to do and the quality of visitor experience will start to deteriorate because it is just unreasonable to expect ratepayers to pay for it.”

He insists council isn’t simply going cap in hand and stresses City Hall is putting forward solutions.

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