Proposed Stewart Island visitor levy increase to be reviewed

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Oban on Rakiura/Stewart Island. Photo: File

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

Southland District Council’s community and strategy committee last week approved a plan to complete a review of the visitor levy in time for the council’s 2022-23 annual plan.

The levy is $5 per person, although Rakiura/Stewart Island 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.

Last week, councillors discussed the timeline of the review, which included carrying out pre-consultation 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 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 follow-up 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 long-term 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 lead-in time before they started collecting the new amount.

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