Topic: Politics

Proposed tourist tax to help fund tourism infrastructure

By Talisa Kupenga

Consultation begins today on the government's planned tourist tax, which could see tourists charged up to $35 to help fund tourism infrastructure and conservation activity.

 The Maori Tourism sector has welcomed the move but says the fee should be higher.

The Government expects between $57-$80mil from the tourist tax in its first year.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis says, "Rising tourist numbers are having a significant environmental impact and that's why we are looking to collect this levy to remedy the issues."

Nātional’s Māori Tourism spokesperson Harete Hipango says there’s a lack of clarity around funds distribution.

"Where is it going to?  How is the allocation really going to impact on our tourism industry?  What level of consultation has there been with our Māori tourism industry?  I suspect very little."

Tourists visiting for less than a year would pay between $25-$35 through visa applications and a proposed electronic travel authority.  Australians and most Pacific Island nations would be among groups exempt.

Davis says, “We don't believe the burden should rest purely on the shoulders of New Zealanders.  We do believe that visitors should pay their fair share.”

Hipango says, "We want to make Aotearoa NZ as attractive as possible and is taxing really the way to go about doing it?"

Last year 3.8 million tourists visited NZ and by 2025 numbers are projected to reach 5.1 million.  The industry welcomes the move but NZ Māori Tourism CEO Pania Tyson-Nathan says the fee should be higher.

"I'd like to see a conversation start at a much higher quantum and work our way back because at the moment if you look at what we're talking about in total [levies] it's about $70.  We're still one of the cheapest destinations in the world."

The proposal also aims to increase some visa costs, immigration fees and levies by November.

The tourist tax is expected to begin next year.