A few months ago there was an article that suggested the number of tourists visiting New Zealand annually would be equivalent to the entire population of the country within just a few years. It was a sobering thought to me on one hand, trying to figure out the amount of infrastructure all of these tourists would need and how to pay for it. On the other it was a serious nod to the status of New Zealand on the world stage. But it also raised some questions.
Somehow New Zealand must find a way to fund the infrastructure that is needed. As tourists are one of the largest users, it seems only fair that they help pay for it. In some small districts where the total population is only a few thousand, and the rate paying base perhaps only a couple thousand, the local council may not have the means to fund all of the infrastructure that they need. This is where the Government needs to step in with some form of assistance, lest it become a drag on one of the biggest contributors to the overall New Zealand economy.
To this end I believe that a uniform fee be charged to every non-New Zealander arriving in the country upon entry. I would suggest that it be something in the vicinity of N.Z.$75-100 and would go into a fund that has no purpose other than to help fund tourist infrastructure projects in the districts with small ratepayer bases. It would be used for building toilet blocks, areas that are suitable for freedom camping, rubbish disposal and so forth. It would be part of a larger Government package to take pressure off New Zealand taxpayers and ensures fairer distribution of costs by only charging users for the services and goods they require. Other measures might include something like a $10 entry fee per person to National Parks. Again, the money would go towards amenities in the National Park system and maintenance of existing ones.
Many thousands of people go into our National Parks each year. 99.99% of them have a great time and remember the experiences for all the right reasons. But for a fraction of the number of visitors, it will not end happily – they might get caught out tramping by a sudden change in the weather and not be prepared or get lost in the bush. The cost of finding these people and getting them to safety could easily cost thousands of dollars. For people going tramping, mountain climbing or taking part in other activities overnight in high risk areas, when logging ones intentions at the Department of Conservation office a bond should be paid as a way of helping to cover rescue costs should there be an emergency. If all goes to plan, or any emergency the participant/s have is not of their making – someone becomes sick; earthquake causes landslides that trap people – the bond gets returned.