A slice of an estimated $80 million earned through levying overseas tourists should help fund infrastructure development at an iconic tourist hotspot in Northland, an iwi leader says.
Snow Tane, general manager of Te Roroa Iwi, said the International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy to be set at $35 per overseas visitor, would help pay for more toilet blocks, road upgrades and help fight kauri dieback at Waipoua forest.
His iwi maintains the forest and its facilities with the help of volunteers who also provide guided tours.
Cabinet last week approved the new levy and it is expected to come into effect around the middle of next year.
Most international tourists visiting New Zealand for 12 months or less will have to pay $35 through visa fees and an Electronic Travel Authority at the border that will go towards tourism infrastructure and conservation projects.
Australian citizens and permanent residents, people from many Pacific Island countries, and ship and air crews will be exempt.
The government will work with conservation, local councils and tourism industry stakeholders on how proceeds from the new levy will be used.
Tane said a significant amount of taxpayers dollars was needed to help improve infrastructure in and around the Waipoua Forest, which attracts more than 200,000 visitors each year.
"We do have toilets at the visitor centre and in the office area but need more up where the big trees are as we only have one there.
"The challenge for us as an iwi organisation is to ensure that the money from the new visitor levy is distributed fairly. When you've got a highly significant landscape like the Tane Mahuta, there's a need to ensure the infrastructure around is fit for purpose," Tane said.
He said like other tourist hotspots such as Queenstown and Rotorua, Te Roroa would also apply for funding from the visitor levy to ensure tourists visiting the Waipoua Forest have a pleasant experience.
Tane said Waipoua Forest, Bay of Islands and Cape Reinga were the three most popular tourism destinations in Northland that should qualify for the new levy.
"Te Roroa has Tane Mahuta ambassadors that deliver narrative to more than 200,000 visitors each year and that's a treat. That number is expected to increase so we must ensure we have the resources like better roads and other facilities to deliver world-class experience," he said.
Tane estimated between $30m and $40m was needed to bring roads up to speed and to mitigate kauri dieback.
Te Roroa has worked with the Far North District Council and the Northland Regional Council this year to plant 60,000 manuka plants plus 10,000 other species of plants.
Announcing the new levy, Tourism Minister and Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis said the new levy would give New Zealand an opportunity to be a world leader in destination management.