Stewart Island tourism operators fear tripling visitor levy will scare off tourists

Stewart Island tourism operators fear tripling visitor levy will scare off tourists.
Stewart Island tourism operators fear tripling visitor levy will scare off tourists. Photo credit: Getty Images


Stewart Island tourism operators have told the Southland District Council that a tripling of the visitor levy will scare off tourists.

The Southland District Council today heard from submitters on the proposal to increase the visitor levy up from $5 to $15 from October next year.

In total the council received 102 submissions on the plan to increase the visitor levy, with 55 percent of all submitters wanting the levy increased from the current $5.

Thirty-two percent of submitters want the levy increased to $10, 18 percent to $15, and 5 percent to over $15.

One of those who wants the levy increased to $15 for each adult visitor is Stewart Islander Alistair Faulknor.

He said tourism created extra costs for residents, many of whom did not get any benefit from the visitors.

"Basically 400 people living on the island, don't do the damage to the road. Don't require power upgrades. Don't require the sewerage upgrades that are required by the visitors that are coming over here. So I would suspect that $15 would be the minimum that it should be raised to," Faulknor said

Another resident, Margaret Hopkins, was comfortable with an increase to $10 but said anything higher might put people off visiting.

She said the council also needed to avoid the temptation to dream up new projects just to spend the money gathered.

"I did look up and see recently where there were plans to build a new track in Baker Park on Stewart Island," Hopkins said.

"Well, I think that's just an example of stupidity. That's dreaming up a project that's both unnecessary and expensive and commits the council to long term expenditure trying to maintain it. And heaven knows we've got enough tracks on Stewart Island already."

Stewart Island Promotions chairperson Aaron Joy runs Stewart Island backpackers - the island's biggest accommodation provider.

He was also concerned about how the money would be spent and said it should not just go towards making up for years of council under-investment.

"All our jetties need work ... So it's clearly an asset management problem that hasn't been really addressed properly over the years," Joy said.

"So now there's this catch-up happening, and suddenly it looks like - okay, the easy way to get some money for the island is to increase the levy."

Joy said he could accept the levy increasing to $10, but feared $15 dollars would start putting visitors off.

Bill Moffatt from Stewart Island Flights was among the 29 percent of all submitters who did not want to see any increase in the levy.

Moffatt was sceptical about information in the council report, saying an increase in the price would not put people off.

"Every time you increase the price that turns people off. Even if one or two thousand potential visitors decide against visiting Stewart Island due to cost that equates to around five hundred thousand to a million dollars of lost revenue for the island itself and businesses on the island. Which I don't think it's good."

Twenty-six percent of the submitters are Stewart Island / Rakiura permanent residents, 44 percent come from other parts of Southland, 10 percent from other parts of New Zealand, and 20 percent are Stewart Island / Rakiura ratepayers who live elsewhere.

The council will now consider all submissions and will make a decision at the next full council meeting on 11 May.