Labour leader Andrew Little wants a "tourist tax" charged at the border to help pay for tourism infrastructure, rejecting Tourism Minister Paula Bennett's concerns it risked making New Zealand look like a "rip-off."
Little said a "modest" levy would be ring-fenced to pass on to local councils to use on tourism-related infrastructure.
"We rapidly and urgently need new infrastructure and infrastructure upgrades targeted at tourists and the easiest and most efficient way to pay for it is just a border levy collected when you buy your ticket, and a mechanism to distribute it to local councils."
He rejected Bennett's suggestion New Zealand risked being seen as a "rip-off" if it added too many extra costs. "We are in desperate need of new infrastructure. A reasonable sum paid at the border is a more efficient way of getting infrastructure built and making sure tourists don't s*** all over our free camping areas and our beaches."
Little said it would be simple to add the levy - since 2015 there has been a levy of about $22 to pay for border control added to the cost of a ticket. In its first five months, that had generated $27.72 million - well above the forecast income of $20.22 million.
Bennett said on Q+A that the boom in tourism was "a challenge" and strain on infrastructure and there was already a fund to help local councils.
However, she did not support proposals for a tourism tax or for taxes such as Auckland Mayor Phil Goff's proposed "pillow tax" for hotels in the region.
"I think that we are unique. We've got, you know, just the best package in the world to deliver to them. But we don't want to be seen as a rip-off, and that's when it can start turning pretty quickly."
She said tourists added to the economy through GST and to the accommodation and hospitality industries as well as core tourism ventures. It was also important not to cater only to the rich - but to ensure backpackers could continue to come.
Former Tourism Minister John Key had spoken supportively of a tourist levy in the past. The proposal also had support as an alternative to a regional hotels tax from Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett.