Thomas Bywater wonders whether tourists should pay even more for the pleasure of being here.

By now we've heard all the arguments both for and against the tourist tax.

Since the announcement of a planned levy on inboards last August, it has divided the country. To the frustration of both camps, it's still doing so.

The service industries of Queenstown have already been volunteered as guinea pigs. For mayor Jim Boult the windfall can't come soon enough. It's thought to be worth $75m in revenue — all ring-fenced to help counter the effects of tourism.


Already the world press is reporting on Milford Sound being ruined by '"bucket list tourists". New Zealand's great natural resources and the world's finest walk ruined by legions of tramping backpackers and hidden human waste.

The Tongariro Crossing has become both a marathon day trail and a sprint for a carpark space.

But what happened to the argument for a fair, free New Zealand — open to all? Will slapping a tax on tourists turn the country's majestic vistas and great outdoor attractions into a playground for the rich? A race to the bottom of the ski-slope? Some would say we are not too far from this already.

For all the arguments I've heard, both for and against, none have budged me from my position. I remain on the border fence.

From here I expect taxing tourists will neither reduce their numbers or do anything to change their interests.

Who is going to baulk at paying $25 on the other end of a $2500 flight?

The numbers add up and are appealing. It's hard to deny the appeal of $75m in low hanging tourist fruit, littered on beaches and strewn across every track from Reinga to Stewart Island.

But how do you implement a tax and what are the repercussions that can't be measured in dollars and hotel suites? What is it causing so many sleepless nights over a proposed Queenstown bed tax?


Plenty of major world capitals and regions have come up with less than perfect ways to unclog their scenic streets and put a bit more coinage in the coffers.

A big issue is how to collect a tax. Do you slap it on hotels and restaurants and deal with the wrath of service industries? Or do you register tourists, count them in and off the mountains like so many merino ewes? A tourist tax can be divisive even among those people wanting to implement it.

One of the most over-thought and involved tourist taxes I've ever had the fortune to pay was to the small German district of Allergu.

A tiny appendage of Germany, the Allergu is a law unto itself. In true Teutonic form it requires visitors and guests to register online and carry around small plastic tourist and resident cards.

This is the sort of small-town Bavaria where anyone not wearing a tiroler and lederhosen is likely to be challenged.

My host had an anecdote of camping overnight on the nearby Nebelhorn only to be greeted the following morning by overzealous mountain man waiting outside his tent to see his Ausweiss.

It's likely to happen if you're new to the area.

Fifty years after his family built their holiday home, there is still some way to go on the path to naturalisation.

More worrying stories involve neighbours harbouring grudges, counting the number of lights on in bedroom windows. A tourism Stasi, secretly policing the number their neighbours' guests. But does this hold back the most popular destinations in Germany for hiking and skiing? Of course not. For a district 25km across and surrounded on three sides by the open Austrian border, perhaps the newfound localism is an attempt at regaining some semblance of control.

Perhaps a tourist tax will only exacerbate an us v them approach to tourists. Still it's hard to deny the much need extra income for New Zealand's much travelled tourist route.