Announcement: Mayor Jim Boult, flanked by council boss Mike Theelen, announces the visitor levy referendum

Queenstown Lakes accommodation businesses that would collect the proposed visitor levy will have their rates burden relieved if it goes ahead.

Ahead of a district-wide referendum on June 5, mayor Jim Boult is proposing to reduce the extra amount of rates commercial accommodation operators pay, over and above normal rates.

That’s so they’re not paying for infrastructure costs that would be funded by the new levy, he says.

“This will ensure that the additional funding needed is collected from visitors, and it is likely this may lead to a reduction in the rates accommodation providers pay,” Boult writes in an ‘open letter’ last week.

He tells Mountain Scene the ‘differential’ rates would be significantly reduced.

“We’re currently doing the modelling of that to see what it is.”

Just what the reduction is will be revealed in the information package that will accompany voting papers that come out mid-May.

“Some operators have actually figured out they’ll be better off, because they’ll have a rates recovery, and they’re pretty comfortable that they can cover it from their customers.”

Queenstown accommodation operator Nik Kiddle, from the Lakes District Tax Equity Group, welcomes Boult’s commitment.

“We’ve been calling on [council] to avoid a situation where they double-tax the accommodation sector.

“It removes one element of the unfairness of the original proposals, but it doesn’t remove them all.

“We believe that any additional tax burden ought to be spread amongst all those who derive an income from tourism.”

Boult, however, argues only accommodation providers should collect the levy because if the wider industry’s targeted, locals would also be paying.

“Attraction providers are in the tourism business, but so are retailers,” he says in his ‘open letter’.

“And that will include gas stations and supermarkets, with the result that locals will again be paying.”

“The only time most locals use the local accommodation,” he tells Scene, “is if you get kicked out of home.”