Plea to rethink maritime levy sinks

A plea by Environment Southland to the minister of transport to reconsider a Maritime New Zealand levy has fallen flat.

The regional council has concerns the that maritime levy could hamstring funding for Southland coastal projects by turning off businesses already paying local fees.

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms raised concerns with minister Gerry Brownlee via letter, which will go before councillors at today's environmental management committee, imploring him to reconsider the way the government charge is applied.

Maritime NZ's maritime levy, which came into effect in Southland in the 2013-14 cruise ship season, charges visiting cruise ships a fee to sail into Milford's waters.

However, an existing deed of agreement between Environment Southland and the New Zealand cruise ship industry stipulates that visiting ships must pay a fee to the regional council, which goes toward the costs of coastal activities.

Timms, in the letter, says the new charge was causing companies to reconsider the fiords as a destination.

This means less income going into the council's marine reserve fund, which is used to fund various projects along the Southland coast.

"We do not dispute that Maritime New Zealand has a right to fund its activities and the legislation is in place to allow it to do so but we do ask that you reconsider how this funding takes place," she says.

However, Brownlee has indicated that no changes are likely until 2015-16, when the process was scheduled for review.

In a letter dated June 25, Brownlee replied to Timms, saying funding from the maritime levy was used to maintain critical services to New Zealand's marine environment, including Southland.

The Southland Times