Queenstown tourism infrastructure could benefit from changes to the international visitor conservation and tourism levy, Finance Minister Nicola Willis says.

Speaking to Mountain Scene ahead of her visit to Queenstown yesterday, in the wake of last week’s Budget, she says the government’s proposing to increase the $35 levy paid by most international visitors.

They’re also consulting — till today’s deadline — on what the levy should be used for.

‘‘I think we can all agree tourists bring great benefits to NZ, but there are also some costs that come with tourism, and we want to be able to offset some of those costs, whether that’s in the Department of Conservation (DoC) estate or with local and regional tourism infrastructure.’’

Currently, the levy, which drags in about $144 million a year, is divvied up 50:50 between tourism purposes, administered by Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and conservation activities.

Willis: ‘‘Although the Act is clear it needs to be used for tourism-related things, it’s not incredibly prescriptive about how it’s used, and so we’re open to options on what people in regions that have large numbers of tourists think it should be used for.

“So the views of people in Queenstown are really relevant to the discussion.’’

On the resort’s escalating property prices, Willis says the government’s aiming to make it easier to build homes ‘‘because fundamentally in Queenstown what you’re seeing is a shortage of supply of housing’’.

‘‘So there’s a few things we’re doing.

“The first is we’ve announced a proposal for 1500 more social homes to be delivered by community housing providers.

‘‘I’m aware the Queenstown Lakes Community Housing Trust do exceptional work, and they’re an example of the sort of community housing provider that could benefit from that new funding we’ve put in the Budget.’’

Secondly, Willis points to changes in tenancy laws — ‘‘it was a particular problem in Queenstown that landlords weren’t able to give notice at the end of a fixed-term tenancy’’.

‘‘So we’re allowing landlords to just have a fixed-term tenancy again, which we think will make it easier for those people who want to use their property in Queenstown for part of the year, but are quite happy to rent it out for the other part of the year.’’

Thirdly, she says the government’s making it much easier and quicker for people to get resource and building consents for houses, cheaper and quicker to get building materials and supporting local government to zone more land for housing.

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