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Overtourism? New Zealand slaps a tax on tourists

June 18, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

New Zealand is imposing a tax on tourists of up to NZD 35 (AUD 32.70) a head – but if your clients are Australian, you can breathe easy.

International visitors will pay between NZD 25 (AUD 23.40) and NZD 35 (AUD 32.70) each to enter New Zealand from late next year, the government in Wellington has announced.

Australian citizens and permanent residents will be exempt, however, and so will people from Pacific Islands Forum countries and children under two. The exemptions reflect the close ties New Zealand has with Australia and the Pacific.

The tax is a measure of New Zealand’s spectacular tourism success. The country has become so popular with international visitors that reports of “overtourism” – excessive visitation – are surfacing. Tourists are placing pressure on the environment. Some of New Zealand’s favourite spots are at risk of being “loved to death”.

NZ’s new tourism levy will fund tourism infrastructure and aid conservation. It is expected to raise up to NZD 80 million in the first year, with the bounty split between tourism infrastructure and conservation funding. The exact split has not been decided and tourism bodies are already claiming a share.

As well as the strain tourists place on facilities in remote places, New Zealand (which since 1999 has described itself as “100% Pure” in its famous tourism tagline) is battling a rising tide of pollution. Last November, 16 beaches in Auckland were reported to be too polluted for swimming, with critics blaming intensive livestock farming for making up to 60% of the country’s rivers and lakes unswimmable. See: Effluent and excrement taint 100% pure NZ image

New Zealand scene. The Catlins, Otago. Photo, Miles Holden

In the year to April 2018, the number of tourists visiting New Zealand equalled 80% of New Zealand’s population. About 3.8 million tourists visited and the New Zealand population is about 4.7 million. It’s as if 20 million tourists had visited Australia over that period (in fact only 9 million did) – and the effect on New Zealand is more concentrated because of its much smaller size.

Australia is New Zealand’s biggest tourism source, with Australians making nearly 1.5 million visits (39% of New Zealand’s total arrivals) over that period.

New Zealand is setting up an electronic travel authority (ETA), a sort of electronic tourist visa. It won’t be ready till next year, which is why the country’s new tourist charges have been deferred until then.

New Zealand locally brewed ales on display at Waimea restaurant, Waikanae

Written by Peter Needham

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