New Zealand strains under tourist loads

Tourism is booming like never before. Visitor numbers rose by 11 percent in 2016 to a record 3.5 million.

It looks great on paper but the reality is we're not coping.

Regions are straining under the load, with a shortage of everything from carparks and campgrounds to beds and bins.

And notoriously, toilets - after a French freedom camper was videoed doing her business outside a Dunedin business.

Minister for Tourism Paula Bennett appeared on Three's The Project and attacked the tourists.

"That in Dunedin was just disgusting! That was gross!" she told the hosts.

It's a symbol of the stress tourists are putting on New Zealand.

Tourism has delivered an extra $800 million in GST alone over the last two years, but councils estimate they'll need $1.38 billion to cope with the boom.

On Wednesday, the Government pledged an extra $5.5 million for tourism infrastructure in the regions, however the extra doesn't even come close and councils are crying out for more.

So why isn't more of the windfall being invested in tourism infrastructure? And is it finally time we start charging visitors an entry fee?

An industry report calls for a bed tax and a $5 border levy to help fund tourism infrastructure. There's also talk of entry fees for our National Parks.

One economist has called for a border levy as high as $250 per person, to deter the worst kinds of visitors.

However Ms Bennett said the tourists are "doing a great job".

She told The Project that extra levies might drive tourists away - however she was talking to Steven Joyce about increasing funding.

"We are already an expensive country," she said.

"I think a bit more does need to be done, so I'm negotiating with the Minister of Finance as we speak.

"And really most of our tourists are absolutely fantastic, treat our country with respect."