Tourism a key concern for Waiheke locals
Tourism and its knock-on effects continue to be a source of controversy on Waiheke Island.
Known as Auckland's 'jewel in the crown', the island lies 35 minutes' ferry ride away from the city and attracts high and ever-growing numbers of tourists.
The Waiheke Local Board has proposed investigating a visitor levy as part of its draft annual board plan.
Residents sending feedback on the plan were asked whether they wanted the board to go ahead.
It would be used to support increased services, infrastructure maintenance or improvement projects.
More than 70 per cent of the 263 submissions received were in favour.
Professional storyteller Tanya Batt, who lives on the island but also works abroad, is one of the supporters.
She said, at the oral submissions hearing on August 2, there had to be a balance between protecting the environment and tourism.
Batt said she had attended Australasian forums where she had met others who lived on small islands.
"Many have been reliant on tourism to the point where it's detrimental to their economy and environment.
"I'd be happy to pay a visitor levy in someone else's country," she said.
She cited Australia's Lord Howe Island as a good example of how to balance tourism with ecological values.
The Lord Howe Island Group, off New South Wales, is listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) as a World Heritage site of global significance.
Batt said the island group had strict controls and could decide on tourist numbers.
"There could be interesting conversations on what that could look like here."
She said the Waiheke community could look at ways of generating income for people who live on the island.
"At present, it's almost like a prostitution of resources and environment," she said.
But Peacock Sky vineyard and restaurant co-owner Rob Meredith is opposed to any visitor tax.
He said there had been a lot of work done to promote tourism, with the Waiheke Island Tourism Forum putting in time and money to increase visitor numbers.
Meredith said a levy would have the opposite effect.
"It seems to be an anti-tourism measure," he said.
He said Waiheke wasn't the only place where there was a shortfall between infrastructure and visitors and acknowledged it was a problem.
But he said a visitor levy wouldn't be the way to put it right.
"It will put us at a competitive disadvantage."
He said, instead, the island should focus on getting money from central government to fix the problem.