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Queenstown, anyone? (Getty Images)
Queenstown, anyone? (Getty Images)

The BulletinMarch 8, 2019

The Bulletin: Queenstown wants visitor levy – will everyone else too?

Queenstown, anyone? (Getty Images)
Queenstown, anyone? (Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to The Bulletin. In today’s edition: Queenstown to hold referendum on visitor levy, Willie Apiata VC says he got no support for PTSD, and Rugby World Cup concerns for rural households.

It turns out that announcement about Queenstown that was teased yesterday was actually pretty important. Local mayor Jim Boult says there will be a non-binding referendum for the people of the Lakes District on whether or not the area will be introducing a visitor levy on tourists, reports Mountain Scene. The Council is hoping to have the referendum done and dusted within a few months, and it went through Council unanimously. In his public interviews since the Council meeting, Jim Boult has sounded pretty confident about it passing. There’s also a national visitor levy coming later in the year. Stewart Island is the one other area with a local levy.

Why is it needed? Because basically Queenstown’s population is completely unbalanced towards tourists. The town sees 34 visitors a year for every resident – considered to be one of the highest in the world. And Councils who provide infrastructure services are largely funded by rates, paid by property owners. So that means in practice, Queenstown is buckling under the strain. Crux reports that new development has effectively been put on hold in the town, after a few decades of rapid growth. “The majority of councillors outlined their own personal perspectives on why development in the district needs to be at least paused … and potentially stopped.”

It also makes a lot of sense in the context of recent stories about a greater desire for localism from Councils. If they’re raising the money themselves, then they get a full say over how it’s spent. Jim Boult says the money raised – with about $40 million per year being the upper target – will be ring fenced for tourism related infrastructure.

So, will other Councils want one? Presuming the referendum passes, the government will then have to push a bill through enabling the levy to be put into place. They might choose to write it to be just for Queenstown, or they might choose to open the legislation up to any region that wants it. If the latter happens, it’s really hard not to see it being put in place in many parts of the country – for example, the Ruapehu District. They too have a relatively low base of ratepayers, against a high number of visitors.

It will put some tourists off, but maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Radio NZ spoke to a young German woman who said she would think twice about going to Queenstown, as she was a low budget traveller. But Queenstown is targeting the high end of the market – the flights to get there are already pretty pricey after all – so they won’t necessarily mind if the number of self-described “low budget” travellers goes down. And in the nationwide context of over-tourism – a few hotspots in particular being stretched to their absolute limits – there probably needs to be a better emphasis on squeezing more money out of each tourist. It is, after all, now the biggest moneymaker in the country.

Former SAS soldier Willie Apiata VC says he got no support after leaving the armed forces with PTSD, reports Newshub. He says the psychological burdens picked up by soldiers overseas always come back home with them, and mental illness and suicide are serious concerns for high rates of veterans. Mr Apiata says he’s launching an organisation, Post Transition, which will lobby and provide support for returning soldiers.

A lot of rural households will end up missing out getting most of the Rugby World Cup at their home, reports Newsroom. Around 40,000 households won’t be able to get fast enough rural broadband to stream the games properly through Spark, and only 7 games will be on free to air TV. I don’t want to pull out a stereotype, but you’d imagine there might be quite a few people living rurally who want to watch the rugby, so there might be a bit of disquiet about this.

The front page of The Press this morning has a warning that the Canterbury measles outbreak is getting worse. More vaccines are being sent down from Auckland, with supplies running low in the region. As of yesterday, there were 14 cases, with that number expected to rise.

Finance minister Grant Robertson has weighed in on the continued employment and public statements of Tax Working Group chair Sir Michael Cullen. Interest reports Mr Robertson’s view is that Sir Michael is personally responsible for both what he says, and how he says it. Ostensibly the job is just defending the report, but some reckon it’s more a case of Sir Michael being paid to go into bat for the government.

Sexual misconduct allegations are coming out in relation to incidents at TVNZ, reports Stuff. A staff member was reportedly forced to resign after exposing themselves at the most recent Christmas party, and earlier in the week a former staffer said an HR manager shut down their attempt to make a complaint about aggressive sexual harassment. TVNZ’s senior management has invited others to come forward if similar things happened to them.

The town of Benneydale in the Waikato is dead against a change in name to Te Māniaiti, reports Radio NZ. Journalist Susan Strongman spent a whole day there in fact, and didn’t find a single person who wanted the name to change. While Te Māniaiti does reflect a historic name for the place, so too does Benneydale for many of today’s residents. Some also call the place Ohirea, though few seem to use Māniaiti in any sort of regular sense. The decision could be made in April, or it could be referred up to Land Information minister Eugenie Sage.

Newshub’s #AgeOfOutrageNZ campaign has largely passed me by, because a lot of it has seemed like an exercise in jonesing for controversy. But the one they’ve finished with is really illuminating. It’s about the many ways women take precautions for their own personal safety (having keys in hand if they’re walking to the car, never walking alone at night, calling a friend to have a lifeline if needed while on a bus home, and so on.) But it goes beyond that too, and looks at the way those measures are often belittled by men. It’s unfortunate and ironic that in a culture that so frequently blames victims, many men also consider women who do take precautions as overly paranoid.

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Melodie Robinson and Barbie Melodie Robinson (Images: Supplied)

Right now on The Spinoff: Early Childhood teachers will be wearing black today, and Mel Burgess explains why. Laura O’Connell Rapira writes about a sobering study into the experiences Māori people have online, in particular facing a massive torrent of racism. Sam Brooks praises Anika Moa’s genius in bringing the members of TrueBliss back together. And rugby icon Melodie Robinson is going to be turned into a barbie – Madeleine Chapman spoke to her about why that matters.

I agree entirely with Emma Espiner on this: that how and where roads are built are deeply revealing of a society’s priorities and hierarchies. That’s one of the themes that comes out of her column on Newsroom, which I don’t actually want to put too much of my own summarising on, for fear of mangling a point she’s made so elegantly. But State Highway 1 smashes right past the front of her ancestral marae in Horowhenua, noisy and dangerous, and that says a lot about the value road planners didn’t put on that place. Here’s an excerpt:

Our road is a nightmare. 100kmph. Passing lanes right outside the marae, and no turning bay for cars coming into the complex. When we take our dead to the urupa we need a police escort. We cross that highway, playing chicken with the cars – because there is nowhere safe to cross. We walk alongside it for 200 metres in the baking sun, the pouring rain, and with the motorists passing within half a metre of our babies, our old people and our honoured guests. Mostly, they don’t even slow down.

I struggle to appreciate a system which would never allow a road like this outside a childcare centre, conference facility or a retirement village, but when those functions are served by a marae, the rules are different.

Eliza McCartney, one of the major drawcards for the Athletics Nationals this weekend, is in doubt to compete, reports Stuff. She’s had niggling injuries for a while, and a flare up in her hamstring has forced her to pull out of a promotional event earlier in the week. But she’s not ruling herself out either, and can leave the decision up to pretty much the last minute on Saturday. The event is also likely to feature an interesting shot put duel between champion Tom Walsh and challenger Jacko Gill.

From our partners: Climate change has already affected how electricity gets delivered to customers, and it’s only going to get more challenging. Vector’s Chief Networks Officer Andre Botha outlines what the lines company is doing to respond.

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