Airlines and tourist businesses are disappointed at a border levy that will push up the cost of a return flight out of New Zealand by around $22.
Travellers arriving in New Zealand will face a $16 per head levy from January next year and a departure charge of $6 is being considered, as part of a Budget announcement on strengthening the border. It is estimated it will collect $100 million a year.
While the government says the move is designed to boost pest protection and keep out drugs, airlines say the new charges would breach a long standing agreement.
Board of Airline Representatives chief executive John Beckett said his members were disappointed the government could contemplate the moves.
"That would be in breach of the understanding that was reached in 2003 - which is simple and logical," he said.
Airlines already met the full costs of aviation safety, which was deemed to be for the benefit of airlines and their passengers and in return the Government met the costs of Customs, which is deemed to be for the benefit of the public. Under the understanding the Government was to bear the costs of agricultural screening, which is deemed to be for the benefit of the primary industries.
"Airlines are also disappointed that the Government itself would harm the tourism industry, especially at a time like this when it needs the foreign exchange from its second largest earner of it."
The tourism industry was blindsided by the move.
Prime Minister John Key, who is also Tourism Minister, spoke to the industry's summit in Rotorua on Wednesday and the Tourism Export Council's chief executive Lesley Immink said there were no hints of the levy.
"Clear surprise is the first reaction that there was no discussion with either the inbound or outbound tourism agencies in New Zealand and the implications for the traveller," she said.
The tourism industry in 2013 indicated it wasn't opposed to a border tax but wanted consultation and her organisation would prefer proceeds of any levy to be directed for spending on the Department of Conservation estate.
Clear surprise is the first reaction that there was no discussion with either the inbound or outbound tourism agencies in New Zealand and the implications for the traveller.
"International visitors would feel like they are contributing to helping the New Zealand environment and it could be a win-win for the Government, tourism and the environment. Another border tax for the sake of customs management is not as easy a sell for anyone," she said.
However, one travel agent said it was not concerned about the new border charges, as long as money collected was applied directly to improving services for passengers.
"So long as there are real benefits for our customers and the additional fees are spent on ensuring the customer experience is as best it can be, through keeping border processes updated and investing in improvements, then we wouldn't see these new charges as a negative," said Flight Centre managing director Chris Greive.
"If however, this is going to be a new fee off-loaded onto the traveller which we don't see eventuate into any real benefits for our customers, then we wouldn't be in favour," said Greive.
Primary Industries minister Nathan Guy and Customs minister Nicky Wagner say the exact amounts will be subject to public consultation.
Primary Industries and Customs spend around $100 million a year on border clearance for passengers and crew.
"In the past, these costs have been met by taxpayers. The Government considers it is fairer for the costs to fall on passengers travelling internationally," Guy said.
Arriving air passenger volumes have grown by more than 18 per cent from 4.4 million in 2009 to 5.2 million in 2014, and are expected to continue growing at around 3.5 per cent each year.
"The levy will help ensure our border processes stay fit for purpose into the future."
Wagner said the levy brought passenger clearance in line with clearing cargo imports, which is already funded by levies and fees.
"The move also brings New Zealand in line with many other countries that recover costs from passengers, including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and China," Wagner said.
The ministers say the levy will be significantly lower than passenger charges levied by many of New Zealand's major trading partners.
The levy, when combined with existing charges, will be around $36 for a return journey - lower than Australia's A$55 (NZ$58) passenger charge and the United Kingdom's £71 (NZ $142) long-haul passenger charge.
From early June, the public and industry would get the chance to provide feedback on the design, introduction and level of the levy.