'Just another tax' - National Party don't support Government's 'entirely unnecessary' levy on tourists - Simon Bridges

National Party leader Simon Bridges has described the Government's new $35 tourist levy as "entirely unnecessary" and likened it to the Auckland fuel tax - despite the tourist tax not actually applying to New Zealanders.

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For more on this story, watch 1 NEWS at 6pm. Source: 1 NEWS

Speaking at Fieldays today, Mr Bridges said he acknowledged the need for "really strong infrastructure investment in tourism" but the new tourist tax, set for the end of 2019 "isn't the way to go".

"A new tax would simply go straight to the Beehive when they've already got very strong coffers," Mr Bridges said.

"I mean this is just another tax where they're already imposing a lot in terms of the fuel taxes, on housing, on renters, and we don't think they need to do it. It's entirely unnecessary at this time."

The levy announced by Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis today in Wellington would apply to most international visitors entering New Zealand for 12 months or less, and cost between $25 to $35.

There would be some exemptions, most notably Australian citizens and permanent residents and people from most Pacific Island Forum countries.

"I know the industry had concerns. I've heard them, and have taken them into account when designing this system," Mr Davis said.

Kelvin Davis says it’s not fair New Zealand rate payers continue to shoulder the infrastructure burden. Source: 1 NEWS

"But we know given the projected growth in visitors, doing nothing is not an option.

The levy would be collected through visa fees, and via a proposed Electronic Travel Authority process for citizens of visa waiver countries.

The Government says levies would collect around $57 to $80 million in its first year, depending on the rate, which will be split between tourism infrastructure and conservation activity.

The levy will likely be implemented in the second half of 2019 as it will have to go through a legislative process.

Consultation on the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy is open from today until July 15, along with consultation on the Electronic Travel Authority and fees and levies proposals.

The Tourism Minister said the $3.8 million international visitors that arrive in New Zealand every year, is expected to grow to $5.1 million by 2024.

"In many places our tourism infrastructure is creaking at the seams as you all well know," Mr Davis said.

"We don't believe the financial burden should rest purely on the shoulders of New Zealanders, we do believe that visitors should pay their fair share."  

The National leader said the Government’s tourist tax would go straight to their Beehive coffers. Source: 1 NEWS



Three people convicted over $54 million Auckland and Hamilton home loan fraud

The Serious Fraud Office says three people have been convicted over a $54m mortgage fraud scheme in Auckland.

Developer Kang Xu, aka Yan (Jenny) Zhang, suspended lawyer Gang (Richard) Chen and former bank employee Zongliang (Charly) Jiang were all convicted for playing a part in the scheme.

Another bank employee was also involved, but managed to leave the country in 2015.

The scheme involved 110 separate property transactions in Auckland and Hamilton, with the end goal being to obtain cheaper lending for a commercial property development.

Xu's husband Kang (Thomas) Huang also pleaded guilty to his part in the scheme before the three-month trial, and was sentenced to four years and seven months imprisonment in February.

SFO Director Julie Read said the scheme required "a high level of calculation and collaboration".

"The banks were misled in a number of respects including the financial position of the purported borrowers and the level of associated risk," she said.

Chen and Jiang have been remanded in custody while Xu has been remanded on bail - they will be sentenced later this year.

Justice Source: 1 NEWS

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Junior sport in Christchurch enduring widespread wet-weather cancellations despite field upgrades

There will be widespread junior sports cancellations in Christchurch for the second weekend in a row despite many sports facilities being upgraded in the city to withstand wet weather.

Sporting fields around Christchurch were already saturated with two-thirds of the city's total rain from last year already having fallen by June, MetService meteorologist Tom Bell told the Christchurch Press.

The airport in Christchurch already had 529.4mm of rain this year after 803.4 millimetres in total last year.

Council head of parks Andrew Rutledge said fields were already "saturated" and play will be limited this week, as it was last weekend, despite predicted fine weather tomorrow.

He said it was going to be a "very challenging season".

Eight facilities, St Albans Park, Sydenham Park, Wainoni Park, Leslie Park, Tulett Park, Papanui Domain, Hospital Corner and Carlton Mill Corner, were upgraded last year to cope better with wet weather.

Despite the upgrades, Sydenham Park, Wainoni Park, Leslie Park, Tulett Park, Papanui Domain have been closed recently.

Canterbury Rugby Union, Canterbury Rugby League and Mainland Football were working with the council on plans to minimise play on the fields.

The decision on what games will be cancelled will be made by individual codes with players to check with their association if they are uncertain. 

The corner of a Rugby Field in Tawa, New Zealand
Source: istock.com