6 Aug 2008

Foreign visitors may face $25 environment tax

8:17 pm on 6 August 2008

International visitors may be charged an environment tax of up to $25.

Tourism Minister Damien O'Connor told a tourism industry conference in Christchurch on Monday that a levy of up to $25 a visitor could raise between $24 million and $61 million a year.

Mr O'Connor says he has had encouraging discussions with tourism operators over bringing in such a tax.

But Tourism Industry Association chief executive Tim Cossar says his sector wants reassurances that the money will be well spent.

Tourism Holdings, one of the country's biggest tourism companies, which owns Maui, Britz and the Waitomo Caves operation, has dismissed the idea.

Chief executive Trevor says visitors to New Zealand already pay a lot in GST and do not get a tax rebate on big items as they do in parts of Europe.

The Travel Agent's Association of New Zealand says there are many unanswered questions about an environmental tax on international visitors.

Association chief executive Paul Yeo questions how the tax will be charged and who will be charged.

Mr Yeo says the industry is lukewarm to the idea, but needs all the money it can get.

He says there are already taxes and surcharges on airfares to New Zealand, and he does not think the environmental tax would turn people off visiting.