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Outdoor recreation group wants tourist levy to pay for parks

Tongariro is one of New Zealand's most-visited landscapes. Photo: Rosino/Creative Commons

An outdoor recreation advocacy group is promoting the proposal that a tourist levy be enacted to help pay for conservation.

Council of Outdoor Recreation Associations of New Zealand (CORANZ) co-chairman Bill Benfield said that international tourists should pay an entry levy because they create the bulk of the impact on New Zealand parks and recreation areas.

“The tourist burden is huge upon our national parks and resources. It’s the biggest part of New Zealand’s economy – it’s exceeded dairy,” Benfield said. “There’s all this money coming in, and the resources that they use should be paid for by tourists. The demand they put on resources, such as toilet facilities, should be parceled out on the industry – tourism – that is benefitting from it.”

According to a release from CORANZ, in 2016, tourism replaced the dairy industry as the top foreign exchange earner for the first time in five years, bringing in $13.5 billion, compared with $13b for dairy.

Benfield said the amount the average New Zealand taxpayer spends should be enough to pay for the retention of our recreation infrastructure – upkeep of tracks and huts for example – but the added stress piled on by the millions of tourists each year is not something Kiwis should have to pay for.

While CORANZ doesn’t say exactly how much the levy should cost, Benfield said it would make sense to put a figure on the extra costs to cover maintenance on public facilities, and then divide that by the tourist numbers.

The group also pointed to the problem of low-spending tourists, or ‘shoestring’ visitors – i.e. freedom campers – who they say don’t contribute enough to maintain the facilities they use.