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16 Jun, 2018 06:10

New Zealand to tax tourists to fund strained infrastructure

New Zealand to tax tourists to fund strained infrastructure

The government of New Zealand is planning to introduce a tax on most international travelers to reduce the strain on its booming tourist sector, as well as to support infrastructure.

The ministry of tourism will start collecting from visitors payment of NZ$35 (US$25) by the middle of next year. The new levy is expected to boost the country’s budget by up to $55.8 million. The government is reportedly planning to use the funds to finance conservation and infrastructure.

“It’s only fair that they make a small contribution so that we can help provide the infrastructure they need and better protect the natural places they enjoy,” Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis said.

New Zealand’s top source of tourists – Australia – will be exempt from the tax, while visitors from other countries, including China, the UK, and US, are expected to contribute.

The payment will reportedly be collected with visa applications, as well as via a new electronic travel authority, which tourists from countries supporting visa-free travel with New Zealand will have to apply to and pay the fee.

The measure was driven by a record increase in tourism in the past four years that triggered New Zealand’s significant economic growth, but at the same time left the infrastructure strained. Locals have voiced concerns that once-untouched wildlands are now crowded with people and rubbish.

The small South Pacific nation, with a population of around 4.5 million, experienced a 30-percent surge in the number of international visitors since 2015 to 3.8 million in the year to April, according to data from the ministry of business, innovation and employment.

The newly-elected government, led by the Labor Party, pledged to make the economy “work for all New Zealanders.” Current Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has struck a protectionist tone, which includes a looming ban on most foreigners buying homes.

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