Otago Daily Times

Increased visitor levy comes back before council


- ABBEY PALMER abbey.palmer@odt.co.nz

THE contentiou­s matter of increasing the RakiuraSte­wart Island visitor levy from $5 to $15 has been brought back to the table.

Southland District Council’s community and strategy committee yesterday approved a plan to complete a review of the visitor levy in time for the council’s 202223 annual plan.

The levy is $5 per person, although Stewart Island/Rakiura residents, ratepayers, and visitors under 18 years old are not required to pay it.

When the council last reviewed the bylaw and policy in 2018, it proposed an increase of the levy to $15 to cover the cost of upgrading buildings.

However, an outcry from community members meant it agreed to keep the levy at $5 until further reviewing and community consultati­on had been carried out.

When the review was completed, the council would determine whether the proposed $15 was appropriat­e.

Yesterday, councillor­s

discussed the timeline of the review, which included carrying out preconsult­ation with operators, hearings and deliberati­ons among several other steps.

Cr Bruce Ford said he was looking forward to hearing what the community thought of the proposed increase in public consultati­on scheduled for March 2022.

Cr George Harpur said he was recently made aware of Environmen­t Southland’s marine fee, and suggested the council look into it as an option for helping fund services.

However, Cr Ford said the option had been previously been investigat­ed and came to nothing.

‘‘It hasn’t gone anywhere we would like it to . . . we’ve come to a dead end a couple of times.’’

Councillor­s agreed to followup on the marine fee applicatio­n and determine whether it could help fund services.

Cr Christine Menzies said deciding on an appropriat­e cost for the levy would ensure the burden did not fall on ratepayers.

If the council was to increase the levy, it would consult through annual and longterm planning processes, and a bylaw amendment process.

The increase would not take effect until October 1 in the year following the decision, and approved operators would have 15 months leadin time before they started collecting the new amount.

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