International travelers arriving in and leaving New Zealand will find the journey more expensive from next year due to a controversial new border clearance levy announced by the government on Wednesday.
The new levy, coming into effect on Jan. 1, would help fund New Zealand’s biosecurity operations aimed at protecting the country’s agriculture and horticulture as well as the unique flora and fauna, said Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Customs Minister Nicky Wagner.
The levy will be 18.76 NZ dollars (12.51 U.S. dollars) plus the goods and services tax (GST) of 15 percent for air travelers and travelers on private craft, amounting to a total of 21.57 NZ dollars (14.39 U.S. dollars).
The levy for cruise passengers would be 22.80 NZ dollars (15.20 U.S. dollars) plus GST, totalling 26.22 NZ dollars (17.48 U.S. dollars) to reflect the additional biosecurity assessments required at ports.
Children under 2 years, crew and transit passengers would be exempt, as would the military, government crisis workers, and anyone who purchased and paid for their ticket in full before Jan. 1 for travel over the next 12 months.
“The levy will cover the border clearance costs for the increasing volumes of arriving and departing passengers rising at 3.5 percent to 4 percent a year while maintaining current levels of service,” Guy said in a statement.
“All travelers are a risk as they could inadvertently carry ‘ hitchhiker’ pests or prohibited items with them. The levy will allow border activities to respond to future demand and create a more sustainable platform for border risk management services.”
The levy would be collected by airlines and cruise operators when tickets were purchased and passed on to Customs, and would be reviewed after 30 months.
Wagner said passenger volumes are forecast to increase from 10. 1 million in 2014 to 13.3 million by 2018-2019.
“The number of travelers coming to New Zealand will continue to increase with the levy in place, and as tourism grows so too does the risk to New Zealand,” Wagner said.
“It will bring New Zealand into line with many of our trading partners that recover costs from travelers, including Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom and China.”
While primary sector groups, such as the kiwifruit industry, welcomed the levy, the tourism, travel and aviation sectors voiced disappointment.
Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts said the government had downplayed the potential negative impacts.
“Fortunately, the tourism sector is currently performing very well, with international visitor arrivals growing by 8 percent in the past year,” Roberts said in a statement.
“However, the new tax will be enough to deter some people from traveling and could shave 1 to 2 percent off the current growth. In terms of visitor spend, New Zealand is set to lose more than it gains in the tax collection.”