Luxon reveals plan to attract more tourists, says no to Q'town tourist tax
Up Queenstown's Skyline Gondola today Christopher Luxon unveiled National’s new plans to inject more money into the tourism economy and make it easier for migrant workers to come to New Zealand to grow “one of New Zealand’s largest export earners”.
National’s plans if elected into government next month include changes to migrant worker requirements, a new Great Walk, and e-bike investment, to make the country “even more attractive to tourists”.
National will extend the current age for a working holiday visa from 30 to 35, hoping this measure will allow thousands more workers into the country, Mr Luxon says.
Mr Luxon was asked by media how Queenstown could cater to more workers when the district’s already stretched to provide housing for its current population.
His answer drew off earlier policy announcements that include plans to unwind the bright line test and interest deductibility, and create build-to-rent programs, in an attempt to open the rental market back up again.
“Landlords are not wanting to rent their houses out to tenants at the moment because the incentives aren't there.”
On visas, National will allow those from eligible countries to also apply for a second and third working holiday visa if they work in hospitality or tourism.
“We will also scrap the median wage requirements and let businesses and sectors like tourism attract the staff they need at rates that reflect their skills and experience."
Mr Luxon says the median wage requirement is a barrier for businesses to hire staff from overseas, and it “means that actually no migrant workers are employed”.
He disagrees that this will create more migrant exploitation – already an issue in Queenstown.
He says this will not be achieved through more funding to Immigration New Zealand, but instead, by getting them to “do their job” and complete more audits on businesses that employ migrants.
“We need to make it crystal clear that they do need to be auditing and checking those employers.”
“Look, the reality for us, in a cost of living crisis, that is not the right answer for New Zealand at this point in time.”
Labour tourism minister Peeni Henare and local Act candidate Todd Stephenson have previously told Crux they’re willing to listen to locals and are open to supporting a bed tax.
Mr Luxon says National will make investments in tourism that will ultimately help grow New Zealand’s economy.
In the pipeline, creating a new Great Walk, stretching 80 kilometres from Waiua to Molesworth in Canterbury.
National plans to invest $3 million to electrify the New Zealand Cycle Trail and provide up to 120 solar-powered e-bike charging stations to make the trail more “accessible for people of all ages and fitness levels”.
A $5 million contestable fund will also be established for regional tourism organisations, such as Lake Wānaka Tourism and Destination Queenstown, to put towards local events.
Mr Luxon says that “National will deliver critical infrastructure” and invest in roads and housing to support regions like Queenstown that host strong visitor numbers whilst having a small ratepayer base.
National also plans to create a new requirement for the Department of Conservation that concession decisions will need to be made within one year, and for a minimum concession period of five years, with Mr Luxon saying this will give businesses more clarity to make decisions.
Mr Luxon says that New Zealand wide, the country is still 1.4 million tourists short of its pre-pandemic days, and says these new plans will bring more people back.
“We do not have the luxury of turning off growth.”
The total cost of National's package of improvements will be $22 million over four years, to be funded from unallocated revenue from the International Visitor Levy.
New Zealand's election is just five weeks away on Saturday, October 14.
Main image: National leader Christopher Luxon and party tourism spokesperson and Southland MP Joseph Mooney reveal their plans to build back tourism if elected to Government next month to media in Queenstown today, September 7.