Queenstown Lakes residents have spoken resoundingly in favour of a visitor levy for the district with 81.37% voting in support of the unique revenue stream.
The result is provisional until a final count is completed on 10 June, but unlikely to change significantly.
Mayor Jim Boult said the referendum unequivocally sent Central Government a definitive message from the district’s community.
“Our people have given this Council a clear mandate to engage with Central Government on the next steps. The support shown for the proposed visitor levy says this is something that locals recognise is desperately needed.”
Not only was the provisional result clear cut, the 41.45% return was significantly higher than anticipated with 30% return for a non-binding referendum considered high. By comparison, the recent Tauranga Museum poll saw a 31.23% result.
“I am delighted that our community was motivated to vote on this issue. I would like to personally thank everyone who has taken the time to engage with and participate in the process.
Mr Boult said the levy was something he had doggedly sought since coming to office in 2016, with his Councillors united in their support. The proposal is to seek legislative change to enable a 5% levy on all short term accommodation in the district.
“I think we all came to the collective conclusion that having exhausted all our options this was where the opportunity lay. The stakes are high for Queenstown Lakes, for ratepayers and for the massive contribution our district makes to the national economy through tourism. I am absolutely delighted with the outcome,” said Mayor Boult.
Voting on the proposed visitor levy closed at noon, 5 June 2019.
Mayor Boult acknowledged that there would be some within the accommodation sector that were not happy with the outcome. “I have closely heeded every counter to this proposal to ensure that we had not overlooked anything and whilst I respect there were opposing views I did not hear or see anything that swayed my view and clearly that was the case for the majority of our community.”
“It has been a fair, democratic process conducted independently under the Local Electoral Act. I would request that people respect that due process has been followed and give us a chance to now to seek a dialogue with Central Government on next steps,” he said.
The non-binding referendum was a significant step but now the hard work really starts. “We will be focussed on our discussions with the government in the hope that it will support consideration of new legislation.”
Mayor Boult will formally present the final outcome of the referendum to central government and seek support for a change in legislation. The timeline for this and details of the subsequent work programme will need to be worked through.