Queenstown mayor Glyn Lewers is scratching his head over the National-led coalition government’s apparent aversion to a visitor levy, either locally or nationally.

Last week, Mountain Scene reported Act leader David Seymour’s added his voice to the chorus of government voices against the idea, instead promoting Act’s GST-sharing scheme, in which councils consenting housing would get half the GST back to pay for infrastructure, as a solution.

Lewers says while he’s interested in that, and it would make a difference, ‘‘it only looks at growth in residents’’.

To the year ended September 19, 2023, though, the Queenstown Lakes District accounted for 11% of all guest nights in New Zealand, and 18% of all international guest nights; Queenstown accounted for 15% of all international guest nights.

Still lobbying Tourism Minister Matt Doocey, in particular, for a levy, Lewers points to the 2018 council-commissioned MartinJenkins study, which estimated if the proposed levy for the Queenstown Lakes was introduced at that time, there’d be about $125 million extra in our
coffers by now.

Over the first 10 years, it was projected there’d be an extra $1 billion of international visitor spend in the district, with multiplier effects for the rest of NZ.

‘‘It’s a pretty small investment for a very large return,’’ Lewers says.

‘‘We’ve got an idea, or a proposal, that could provide an extra $1b of international spend in NZ, just in Queenstown alone … but yet they don’t want to acknowledge it.

‘‘They want to use tourism to grow the economy, but they don’t want to invest in that growth.’’

In that same 2018 report there were three scenarios, based on investment over the following five years — the worst-case was ‘‘eroded’’, with no additional investment from a visitor levy.

Under that, the council still aimed to do minimum investment in water to meet peak demand and statutory quality levels in most areas.

‘‘Well, we know from last year we didn’t meet that.’’

It planned minor changes to reduce congestion on some town centre arterial roads, which hasn’t been done.

A town centre public transport hub was to have been developed, which also hasn’t occurred, nor has increased parking capacity.

‘‘These were key tourism-related investments that the visitor levy would create,’’ Lewers says.

‘‘We haven’t met any of those, and that scenario was ‘eroded’.

“[Our] tourism destination is getting undermined because of a lack of investment from a visitor levy.’’

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