No bed tax yet, but door left open

By Corey Charlton, Lawrence Gullery

There will be no bed tax or targeted rates imposed on the commercial accommodation sector this financial year but the regional council will not completely rule it out, says chairman Fenton Wilson.

The prospect of introducing a bed tax which would rise to $1 per night by 2015 was suggested by mayors Lawrence Yule and Barbara Arnott last week to provide more funding for Hawke's Bay Tourism, as an alternative to providing more funding themselves.

They said more council funding was unfair on the ratepayers, and asked the regional council to include a bed tax in its draft Long Term Plan.

But the industry says a bed tax unfairly targets accommodation providers, ignoring the benefits increased tourism provides to cafes, restaurants, taxis and other services.

Regional council chairman Fenton Wilson said the two mayors' request was declined because among other things it hadn't been consulted on, and did not tax every visitor to the region, such as cruise liner passengers and people staying in private accommodation.

The regional council "quite categorically" would not be putting the rate up, he said.

In the near future, it would continue to work with the other councils to find better ways of using the money already allocated "within the existing budgets". This currently sits at $850,000, rated across Hawke's Bay to fund Hawke's Bay Tourism.

Although it would not be creating a bed tax or targeted rates, it reserved the right to do so.

"It is a fact that it is there if needed and required, even though it is not a preference," Mr Wilson said. "I think we're a long, long way away from going down that path at this moment."

Hastings Moteliers' Association president Paul Cropper said it would be unfair to levy just the commercial accommodation providers in order to top up Hawke's Bay Tourism's budget.

"A fairer way would be to do it through rates. With the way the economy is at the moment, we would have to pass a bed tax on to customers or try to absorb it ourselves.

"Until the economy picks up, we can't afford any more costs."

Mr Cropper said the association had letters from the Motel Association of New Zealand and the Tourism Industry Association supporting its call to find alternatives to a bed tax.

"Yes, it's been a topic among our members. Both the Napier and Hastings associations have met about the matter, we've been in touch with the Tourism Industry Association and the regional council is aware of how we feel about it."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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