Mixed views on tax | Otago Daily Times Online News

A proposed border tax on international tourists is drawing a mixed reaction from tourism and local government leaders in Otago.

The Labour Party announced on Monday it would levy visitors $25 a head to fund tourism and conservation infrastructure, on top of the existing $22 border tax.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa  chief executive Chris Roberts said he supported greater funding for the Department of Conservation and tourism infrastructure, but did not favour the proposed funding mechanism.

“It’s very easy to target visitors because they don’t vote, and this is yet another tax on top of other taxes.

“We are concerned about the message that sends about how we view visitors to the country.”

The tourism boom was generating an “enormous tax dividend” for the Government through GST receipts.

“There is already the funding available to any Government to invest some of that bonus back into infrastructure development.”

The TIA had lobbied for the Tourism Infrastructure Fund announced by the Government in this year’s Budget.

“We had hoped it would be larger than $25million a year, but we think it’s the right structure because it provides targeted funding to the most worthy projects.”

Queenstown Lakes Mayor Jim Boult said he did not favour another border tax.

“We don’t care if a tourist comes from Shanghai or Auckland. They still use our infrastructure, so we prefer something that is wider than that.”

He had calculated that only $9million would be available for high-growth tourism areas like Queenstown.

“If you divide that up between all the high-growth tourism areas, which is basically every tourism area in New Zealand, there might be very little left out of it,” Mr Boult said.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said he was a signatory to a letter from six South Island mayors to the Government in May calling for such a tax.

It was a “viable proposition” that would help his district cover the cost of providing infrastructure that was mainly used by visitors.

Clutha Mayor Bryan Cadogan said the idea was “a step in the right direction”, but he was keen to see more details about how the proceeds would be allocated.

“But having some form of levy taken at the border is a clear and justifiable one in my books.”

The Labour Party estimates the tax would provide $75million a year for a tourism and conservation infrastructure fund, with $45million going towards infrastructure and $30million  towards protecting the environment.

Of the $45million, 60%  would be allocated to infrastructure projects, 20% to training and 20% to support high tourism-growth areas.

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