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Greens moot levy to protect environment

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 11/08/2016

The Greens want to charge international visitors a new "taonga levy", with the proceeds going towards protecting the environment.

The levy would be a $14 to $18 increase on existing border charges, but people who live in New Zealand wouldn't have to pay it.

"The taonga levy will bring in tens of millions of dollars every year to help make New Zealand's dream of being predator-free a reality, and help tourism hotspots cope with rising visitor numbers," Greens co-leader James Shaw said.

The revenue will be split 70:30 between Predator Free New Zealand and the Regional Tourism Facilities Fund.

Mr Shaw said annual visitor numbers are expected to reach 4.5 million in the next six years and the government hasn't done enough to help local councils fund new tourism infrastructure.

"Small communities on the West Coast and Coromandel shouldn't be expected to wear massive rate hikes to upgrade sewerage systems to cope with the influx of tourists," he said.

"I think most visitors to New Zealand will understand that paying an extra $14 to $18 is worth it to help protect our unique environment and native wildlife."

Late last month the government unveiled its own plan to make New Zealand predator free by 2050.

It's making an initial $28 million investment in a new joint venture company called Predator Free New Zealand to drive the programme.

Conservation Minister Maggie Barry isn't impressed by the Greens' idea.

"I think it's half-baked, ill thought through, poorly conceived and just a desperate attempt for a party that has very limited credentials in environmental and conservation gains to insert themselves into a government initiative," she told reporters.

Ms Barry said an increased levy could put some tourists off coming to New Zealand.

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