29 Aug 2017

Labour's tourist tax lacks detail - councils

6:39 am on 29 August 2017

Local councils are pushing the Labour Party to give details of how it would spend money raised from its proposed tourist tax.

People with suitcases at airport (stock photo).

Photo: 123RF

Labour has pledged to introduce a $25 levy, to raise $75 million a year for a tourism and conservation fund.

The party said $9m of that would go towards high-demand areas like Queenstown and $27m would be for tourism infrastructure.

Westland District Mayor Bruce Smith was worried regions like his could miss out.

"The devil is in the detail. If in fact that $27m was being focused on the areas of greatest need and the areas that could least afford it, that'd be a great thing.

"But if in fact it's contestable across the whole of New Zealand, we'll get diddly-squat out of it."

That view was echoed by Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull, but even so, he said, he supported the tax.

"Tourism numbers are going up, there's a clear need for funding of infrastructure, and there's an obvious difficulty where the infrastructure is needed in places where the councils have a very small rating base and a limited ability to fund that infrastructure.

"Putting it on at the border is where we've been advocating for some time."

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts.

Tourism Industry Association chief executive Chris Roberts Photo: Supplied

Tourism Industry Aotearoa chief executive Chris Roberts said tourists were already paying their way.

"International visitors to New Zealand already pay $1.2 billion in GST a year as well as all the existing border taxes.

"We don't think that another tax on top of the existing tax is the right approach.

"There's plenty of revenue coming in from our overseas visitors, they are more than paying their way in this country already."

National Party campaign chairman Steven Joyce said another cost would potentially put tourists off.

With a $22 border clearance levy already in place, tourists would pay a total of $47 if Labour's tax was brought in. "So there is a point actually where it starts to become expensive and we're already seen in international surveys as a reasonably expensive destination."

But Labour tourism spokesman Kris Faafoi did not think the tax would hurt tourist numbers.

He said the number of visitors increased faster than expected after the National-led government introduced the $22 border charge last year.

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