THE suggestion of a bed tax to pay for infrastructure and services straining under the weight of a massive influx of holiday-makers has been criticised by a local MP and the acting Shoalhaven City Council tourism manager.
Local Government Minister Don Page made the suggestion after a surge in summer revellers to his home town, Byron Bay.
Mr Page said he was astounded at the amount of rubbish in the town, including in residential areas, on New Year’s Day.
About 1.5 million visitors descend on Byron each year with Mr Page saying he had never seen so many people in the town.
“The reality is that the infrastructure can’t cope and the question is: ‘What do we do about it?’”
“A bed tax is definitely an option.”
He admitted that such a levy went against his government’s policy.
He maintained that laws controlling councils – now under review – should be amended to allow local authorities to tax businesses specifically to improve roads, parking, public toilets, parks, boardwalks and rubbish collection services.
“Under the Local Government Act, it’s difficult for a council to impose a tourism levy because they have to be able to show a direct benefit that’s delivered to the person paying the levy,” Mr
However, he said legislation could be altered so councils had only to prove an indirect benefit.
Kiama MP Gareth Ward said the last thing the region needed was an additional tax.
“Small businesses in this area don’t want to be tax collectors for state or federal governments,” Mr Ward said.
“With additional taxes come administration costs and you would then have to employ a whole new bureaucracy to ensure its implementation.
“The best things councils and governments can do is ensure the infrastructure and services
necessary to make the region a great place to
live are there for residents and if that’s successful then tourists will also want to experience
“A bed tax would also make us less competitive with other tourist locations in other states.”
Shoalhaven City Council’s acting tourism
manager, Ben Harnwell, said a new tax on tourists could have a negative impact.
“The introduction of a bed tax would be extremely negative for the area,” he said.
“Tourism is a big driver of our economy, generating $678 million a year, and a bed tax, a further cost, could have a big effect on that.
“We provide infrastructure and services to the community through rates.
“We know our population swells by three
times to more than 300,000 in peak holiday
times and we provide infrastructure to cope to that standard.”
Mr Harwell said the city also coped during this busy period by planning ahead with a number
“We have a number of plans in place, like our parks staff working less hours in winter to allow them to have extra hours in the busy summer periods,” he said.
“That allows us to clean the parks, surrounds and facilities during peak visitor times.
“I would much rather us spend the money we get on promotion and getting more people here and then lobby for funding for other infrastructure like we have done for the Princes Highway.”