DoC to charge visitors more on Great Walks

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"Conservation Minister Maggie Barry told a meeting at the National Party annual conference on Saturday that part of the $76 million in Budget funding for the Department of Conservation would be spent on a new computer system to enable "differential pricing", allowing DOC to charge international tourists more than New Zealanders when they booked walks on tracks such as the Milford, Routeburn and Kepler. Referring to recent calls for a levy on arriving international visitors, Barry said: "We won't be putting a border tax on, that's not how we roll. "But what we are doing with that new computer system, which is part of that $76m, we are investing into a modern, fit-for-purpose DOC computer system to take bookings. "We will be doing differential charging so visitors who actually use our estates (as opposed to visitors who just come to New Zealand who don't actually go out into the DOC estate) but visitors who actually go on our walks will be paying more – substantially more - to access the huts than New Zealanders." https://www.newsroom.co.nz/2017/06/25/35804/foreign-trampers-to-pay-higher-prices Has anyone though this through? What is the ROI on spending $76m to charge overseas visitors more on just the Great Walks? Because while Barry has referenced a couple of well-known tracks, she's left the door wide open to a booking system that charges for ALL hut access. And that doesn't feel right either. What it does feel like is another step along the path of commercialising DoC as a state owned tourism operation. It will do nothing to address the much wider and chronic underfunding of DoC in terms of it's conservation role, and in the huts themselves it creates a 'two class' system of visitors and locals. I still much prefer a border tax; small and efficient. The vast majority of visitors to this country are here because of the Conservation estate to some degree.

1. From your own reference - ""$11.4m of the Budget funding is earmarked for the upgrade of the booking system and other DOC online services."" 2. ""DOC is currently working out the amounts that international visitors will be charged, and Barry said it was hoping to set the charges for the most popular tracks high enough to drive demand to lesser walked routes. "We will drive visitor numbers to the walks and the parks that are less walked and we want to do that deliberately," she said."" 3. ""It is the biggest payday, pay year, DOC has had. It is a wonderful thing and for those people who knocked it and said it wasn't spending money on biodiversity they need to pay attention to the fact that we have had issues trying to manage the large number of visitors that love to come to our walks and national parks and we needed to relieve the impact on the environment and put in practicalities," she said. "But the money that we make from that extra visitation will be ploughed back into biodiversity, it will be ploughed back into predator control."" PS - 4. ""Around 50 percent of all international tourists visit a national park while in New Zealand.""

Not exactly the 'investigative journalism' I expect of Newsroom. Just a plain repeating of the story as Maggie Barry wanted it told. I'd have liked to see Newsroom's usual checking of the facts or getting to the details behind the broad-sweep statements. Might hold off on my subscription a bit longer ...

Aye. Just repeating a Press Release instead of journalism. Next thing you know, they'll cut & paste twitter feeds as news ??? LOL

@madpom Any new service has a balance between the daily news cycle, breaking stories, press releases, even twitter feeds ... and longer form investigative journalism which takes time, focus and money to get into print. It will be interesting to see what kind of reaction we see from FMC and other user groups. Then we might get a story.

What's seriously missing, both from the general debate about this and from the governments announcements, is an actual business case. How much will be raised? How much extra will be spent? Where will it be spent? What new and improved Conservation outcomes should we expect, where and by how much? How will those outcomes be measured so we know if they've succeeded, and how well? We spend so much effort talking about details of how "new" money could be raised (because apparently we can't afford to actually pay for it ourselves --- we'd rather all have tax cuts), and not nearly enough talking about what actually needs to be spent and what we want from it. Right now I'm unconvinced that either a border levy or differential charging will make a significant difference to New Zealand's conservation outcomes -- certainly not to the Natural Heritage outcomes which I probably care about even more deeply than the recreation. Information released to date hasn't yet done anything to convince me otherwise. To me it seems that the more fundamental problem is priorities. We don't think of Vote:Conservation as needing more than around $400 million, and Natural Heritage no more than about $170 million. People see it as something that can run from volunteers whenever there's a shortcoming. Every time it needs money, we have to scrounge around, evidently now to the point of simply demanding that someone else pay for our own problems instead of taking responsibility. Even *that* is most likely more about symbolism to keep voters happy than a measure that'll actually have a meaningful effect.

@izogi Thanks for putting it the case more clearly than I managed in the OP. Reading the whole article the most we can deduce is that 800,000 visitors use the Conservation Estate pa. But we know for certain that Great Walk hut users are far less than this. From this link: http://www.doc.govt.nz/news/media-releases/2013/more-people-taking-on-docs-great-walks/ it's suggested the number is only 10% of total visitors; 80,000. If for this group of GW walkers averaged 5 nights, and DoC charged say an extra $50 per night, that represents a total potential revenue increase in the order of $20m pa. That's the upper limit of extra revenue achievable, and peanuts in the context of what is needed to protect our Natural Heritage. But in reality this Herald article suggests they are targetting way less than this: "On the popular Milford Track, where up to 67 per cent of visitors are from overseas, hut fees will rise from $54 to $70. The department said today the new charges are designed to increase revenue from the walks by about $880,000 a year, which will go some way to bridging a funding gap. " http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news/article.cfm?c_id=3&objectid=11849156 If they are going to spend $11m on a new booking system to achieve a revenue increase of $0.8m ... the business case is utterly bonkers. You have to think that once they have an efficient way of implementing user pays on the hut system, there would be a huge incentive to ramp it up across the whole system for all users. By contrast if we charged every one of the 1.6m visitor arrivals say $50 border tax (which is quite modest compared to the cost of getting here) there is $80m pa. Still not enough, but starting to get useful.

Hi @phillipw. Yes $80m could be potentially useful if it actually reaches Conservation, but I'm not convinced it would, especially without a business case. There's already a $10 billion tourism industry strongly lobbying for money to fix its own problems, and a border levy is being posited as the way to "fix" that. As soon as anyone sniffs money, they all put their hand up. If any went to DOC, which the government is insistent is already funded perfectly adequately, how do we know that the extra revenue would actually add to DOC's income and spending instead of replacing existing Crown funding? I think this is the problem of talking about how to raise money instead of where to spend it and for what outcomes. As soon as we talk about revenue sources, that's all we're talking about. We never talk about revenue sources for funding jails or police or superannuation or elections or roads or rent of government offices. We just pay for it, because people assume it's needed, and the government allocates money from taxation and borrowing and weighing priorities against other sources. Maybe there could be a border levy or hut fee adjustments for recreational and tourism users, but that should be a separate discussion from the value we place on something like Conservation and Biodiversity, what we want for it, and what must be spent to achieve that. As soon as we talk about raising money for Conservation for doing extra stuff, instead of taking responsibility and actually paying for it, we're just framing the whole thing as a charity.... But probably the reason it seems so natural to talk this way is because critically important stuff like biodiversity has already been framed as a fuzzy, good news charity for so long. There's not even a realistic perception out there of how much peril it's in.

I doubt doc will geerate much money from this. They are being seen to placate people about making tourists pay their way.. But spending so much on the new system makes me wonder on how much more they might charge for.. What aren't we being told.... The more you charge for the more people will dodge charges.... Word gets around where is best to dodge hut rangers.... The grapevine will thrive... Great walks will be the only place where people will have to pay... But they r a drop in the bucket on numbers of people tramping. Collecting fees there will be window dressing

@wayno. Yes, that underlies my thinking too. The more narrowly you target any tax, fee or benefit ... the more distortions and unintended consequences you tend to have. That's why I like an airport charge. It fits with the 'tax little, tax often' principle. Edit: @izogi As usual you nail the issues concisely. The Conservation Estate is probably the nation's single largest tangible asset; in both economic and spiritual terms. Yet we grossly undervalue it, degrade it and allow it to be squandered.

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Forum The campfire
Started by PhilipW
On 26 June 2017
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