Call for visitor levy and economic development agency for Queenstown

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce say there is a need for an economic development agency in the town.
DEBBIE JAMIESON/FAIRFAX NZ

Queenstown Chamber of Commerce say there is a need for an economic development agency in the town.

Calls for a visitor levy in Queenstown have been renewed, with local business leaders saying it could help fund essential infrastructure the town cannot otherwise afford. 

In a submission to the Queenstown Lakes District Council this week, the Queenstown Chamber of Commerce asked for a visitor levy to be implemented in the resort, which could help get planned projects that were otherwise "unaffordable" over the line.

Chamber chief executive Ann Lockhart said the town's number of ratepayers – about 28,000 – was disproportionate to the number of visitors, which reached more than 2 million annually.

"The chamber believes it is important that visitors contribute towards essential infrastructure which they are users of."

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In 2013, the council brought up the idea of introducing a visitor levy as an option for funding a $50 million convention centre.

Lockhart said introducing a visitor levy now could help with schemes like subsidised public transport. 

The chamber also asked for $300,000 of government funding to create an economic development agency for the region. 

Lockhart said a wide range of stakeholders realised there was no structure or pathways for planned economic development in the district, despite a high demand for it. 

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"The district has experienced very strong economic growth over the last decade – over double that of the New Zealand average. However, the district is very concentrated and reliant on industries that service visitors and the growing population," she said.

Responsibilities for an economic development entity would include supporting new and current businesses, expanding the local economy, utilising land resources, and event promotion.

The chamber represented 580 businesses, Lockhart said. 

Downtown Queenstown manager Steve Wilde, whose organisation has been incorporated with the chamber, said having an economic development agency was the "way we need to go".

The idea had been considered for several years, but now "must happen", he said.

"We support the chamber a hundred per cent."

 - Stuff

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