No rush to tax Great Walks trampers

Existing legislation doesn't let DoC charge people to use the walks or cap numbers (Getty)
Existing legislation doesn't let DoC charge people to use the walks or cap numbers (Getty)

The Government isn't ruling out charging both local and foreign trampers to use the country's Great Walks, but it's not the Prime Minister's preferred option.

Department of Conservation (DoC) boss Lou Sanson last week said with tourism exploding, it might be time to charge people to walk tracks like the Tongariro Alpine Crossing and the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

He prefers a two-tiered charge - one for tourists, and a cheaper rate for Kiwis.

"I'm a bit mixed on that decision," John Key - also Minister of Tourism - told Paul Henry on Monday.

"Tourism numbers are really growing strongly - 3.3, 3.4 million people came last year, we're going to get increasingly more - so there's no question there's a demand for infrastructure."

Existing legislation doesn't let DoC charge people to use the walks or cap numbers.

"We've got to have that debate," Mr Sanson told the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce, the Otago Daily Times reported.

"We're going to have to do something. This goes to the heart of being a Kiwi."

Mr Key sees three options:

Despite the fast-growing sector, Mr Key says there's no rush to figure out how to pay for the preservation of the Great Walks.

"Everyone should tai ho. Let's go and have a thank about what we need, and ultimately come back.

"We make nearly $1 billion of GST a year from international tourists, and it might be that well just well say, look, the Government puts in more money."

The easy option, in his view, would be a tax at the border.

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