Visitor levy Q&A
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Below are some questions and answers about the Stewart Island/Rakiura visitor levy.
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The Stewart Island/Rakiura visitor levy is a sum of money collected from visitors to the island. It has been set at $5 per person aged over 18 since it was established in 2013, with some exemptions.
With a small population and large number of visitors, the levy is intended as a way to support costs for services, activities or facilities that benefit visitors, or to mitigate environmental effects of visitors.
The levy is payable by any visitor to Stewart Island/Rakiura who is aged over 18.
There are some exemptions, including those aged under 18-years-old, Stewart Island/Rakiura residents and ratepayers and those who remain on the island for 21 consecutive days or more.
Funds from the levy must be used to better provide services, facilities and/or amenities for island visitors, or to mitigate environmental effects of visitors.
Groups and organisations are able to apply to the Stewart Island/Rakiura visitor levy subcommittee, for funding to go towards infrastructure, operational costs and community projects.
Examples of past allocations include:
- museum rebuild
- free wifi zone
- street maps
- historical walk pamphlet
- walking track upgrades
- footpath upgrades
- wharf replacements/jetty rebuilds
- habitat restoration projects
The Southland District Council (Stewart Island/Rakiura Visitor Levy) Empowering Act 2012 outlines the criteria for activities that could be considered eligible for funding.
Levies must be used for:
- funding wholly, or in part, activities used by visitors
- funding wholly, or in part, activities on the island for the benefit of visitors
- mitigating the adverse effects of visitors or excluded visitors on the environment of the island
Most activities on the island are used by visitors as well as residents. With about 400 residents and 40,000 visitors, many activities have benefit for visitors but are also essential for residents.
Applications are assessed by the Stewart Island/Rakiura Visitor Levy Allocation Subcommittee, using the criteria set out above.
The subcommittee consists of the following members appointed by Council:
- the chair of Council's Community and Strategy Committee
- the chair of Council's Finance and Assurance Committee
- the councillor for Stewart Island/Rakiura
- a representative from the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board
- a representative recommended by each of the Approved Operators (three in total)(Approved operators collect the levy on behalf of Council and are Real Journeys Limited, Stewart Island Flights Limited and ISS McKay Limited on behalf of cruise ships)
- a member to represent iwi- a member from Stewart Island/Rakiura
On average, levy funds collected amount to approximately $160,000 per year.
Costs identified by community groups and in Council's Long Term Plan show a significant shortfall to support the annual spending needed to support activities and infrastructure that benefit the 40,000-plus visitors to Stewart Island/Rakiura each year, or mitigate adverse effects of visitors.
With such a small ratepayer base, servicing this shortfall is unaffordable from a rates perspective. However, revenue from the levy is one potential source to support required work and activities.
Revenue from the levy is allocated to groups or organisations by way of application to the Stewart Island/Rakiura visitor levy allocation subcommittee, so funding for particular projects is not guaranteed. However, having increased funds available would provide further funding opportunities to assist with getting important work and activities completed.
When the levy was reviewed in 2018, there were fears from some that increasing the levy would deter visitors to the island.
There is strong demand for Stewart Island/Rakiura as a destination, with high visitor numbers for the 2020/2021 summer season. There is no data to suggest a moderate increase to the visitor levy would impact the number of visitors wishing to visit the island.
A seasonal difference, where the levy was higher in summer and lower in winter, as an incentive for those potentially looking to travel over winter months, may be an option to put out for consultation, if feedback suggests enough interest. However, the total levy revenue would need to be considered and taken into account when setting the levy under any such scenario.
August-September 2021 - understanding community feedback
Council is engaging with approved operators (operators that collect the levy from visitors), key stakeholders and the wider community. Council wants to understand perspectives relating to potentially increasing the levy and what amount might be feasible and is also seeking feedback on the policy and bylaw.
Once views have been ascertained, a report will go to the Stewart Island/Rakiura Community Board, Council's Community and Strategy committee, then to full Council. These reports will be seeking feedback from these groups on proposed changes.
It is anticipated formal consultation will happen in 2022, in line with Council's Annual Plan. Community and stakeholder views will once again be sought.
Any increase to the visitor levy (if agreed on) would not be in place until October 2023.
If you have a question on this, please click the contribute button or the lightbulb. We'll get back to you as soon as we can.
Or, email Southland District Council senior policy analyst Carrie Williams; email firstname.lastname@example.org