Island levy hearings to start
Debate around excluding long-term visitors or relatives of residents are among the points raised in submissions on the Stewart Island visitor levy.
The Southland District Council (Stewart Island/Rakiura Visitor Levy) Empowering Act was passed by Parliament in March, and allows the district council to collect a levy of $5 per person from visitors to the island.
The council received 22 submissions on its draft bylaw and policy, and will hold hearings on Monday.
Several of the submitters, including island resident Sandra King, questioned why visitors who planned to on the island for longer than 21 days were exempt from paying the levy.
''If people are staying for this long they are definitely adding to the strain on ratepayers, services and facilities ... I feel that the period of visitation which qualifies a visitor for exclusion should be extended to [three] months or more,'' Ms King said.
Submissions pointed out people could say they were visiting for 21 days or more but leave earlier, avoiding paying the levy.
However, comment from the district council in the agenda for next week's hearing said the exemption was included in the legislation passed by Parliament and could not be changed by council. Council believed the penalties in the Act would encourage compliance, it said.
Other submissions asked if beneficiaries of trusts that held cribs on the island would be exempt from paying the levy, and questioned why close relatives of island residents would have to pay.
Beverley Osborn said she did not want to see a further barrier in the way of maintaining strong family ties, while CW Stirling said: ''by charging our adult children to stay in our house that we pay rates on is wrong.''
However, the district council's response said the legislation set out exclusions and it was not intended to include adult children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren unless they were dependants.
''Creating additional categories of exclusion will add to the complexity of the administration of the bylaw and reduce the amount of funds collected,'' it said.
Those who will speak to their submissions before council include the Department of Conservation and Real Journeys.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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