National says tourists will have to pay double to go on NZ's Great Walks as Conservation Minister Maggie Barry introduces differential pricing; Labour expected to announce tourist levy later in campaign

National has announced that tourists coming to New Zealand to experience our “Great Walks” will now have to pay twice as much as locals for the privilege of doing so.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry said on Friday that differential pricing would come into effect from October 2018 – something DOC has been working on since last year. Tourist teenagers and children will also be added to the billing list to “close a loophole” that saw international school parties book out huts without paying.

Barry said the extra $4 million in extra revenue raised each year from the Great Walks tourist levy hike would go towards Department of Conservation programmes as well as covering for the $1 million annual loss made by the Great Walks due to upkeep costs.

New Zealanders will not face price hikes. “We believe it’s fair that international visitors who experience our Great Walks pay a little more to enjoy our landscape and contribute to protecting our native wildlife,” Barry said.

Tourists have increasingly become revenue-raising targets as tourism rushes up the list of New Zealand’s income-generating sectors and after an increase in headlines about freedom campers. Labour is expected to announce a tourist levy that would raise over $100 million a year later during the campaign – something Barry ruled out in May.

Local Government New Zealand has been calling for GST paid by tourists to be given to the local authority where spending occurred as a way to fund and upgrade over-used local infrastructure like public bathrooms. Funding could also cover essential infrastructure like water pipes in small, tourist towns which experience seasonal pressure from fluctuations in population.

New Zealand First is a fan of the GST-for-the-regions policy. So too was former Labour Party leader Andrew Little – we’re yet to hear Jacinda Ardern’s thoughts on this.

Read the announcement from Barry below:

A National Government will ensure international visitors pay more to experience our world-famous Great Walks, providing more funding for conservation initiatives, conservation spokeswoman Maggie Barry says.

“The nine Great Walks are among New Zealand’s most popular visitor attractions, but they run at a $1 million annual loss,” Ms Barry says.

“We believe it’s fair that international visitors who experience our Great Walks pay a little more to enjoy our landscape and contribute to protecting our native wildlife.”

From October 2018, international visitors will pay double the fee on the five most popular Great Walks (Milford, Routeburn, Kepler, Abel Tasman and Tongariro), and 50 per cent extra for the other Great Walks and backcountry hut passes.

“There are no changes for New Zealanders – hut charges for Great Walks will stay at their current low levels,” Ms Barry says

“New charges will also apply to the under-construction Paparoa Track and the two new Great Walks planned as part of Budget 2017’s $76 million investment in conservation.

“National will also close a loophole which has seen international school parties book out huts without paying, by introducing a charge for teenagers and children from overseas.”

These changes will generate more than $4 million a year in extra revenue, all of which will be allocated to Department of Conservation (DOC) programmes.

“The extra revenue will ensure the Great Walks continue to be a world-class experience for visitors and New Zealanders – and provide additional resources to protect native species like the kea, kiwi and kokako,” Ms Barry says.

“Together with today’s announcement of an additional $5.4 million a year for community conservation programmes, National is showing its commitment to supporting community groups and DOC continue to protect out natural environment.”