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.
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.
"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."