Doctors practising in rural areas say the proposed tourist tax should also benefit healthcare services in the regions, given that peak tourism seasons can heavily impact on those services.

The NZ Rural General Practice Network has put out the call, saying the tourist tax likely to be implemented next year needed to reflect what they were seeing out in the field – that tourism was placing “real stress” on the delivery of rural health services.

The group’s chief executive, Dalton Kelly, acknowledged the announcement last week; when Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis set out a new visitor levy of between $25 and $35.

The new levy will help to fund infrastructure and conservation costs around the country.

“Many regions are struggling to cope and urgently need improved infrastructure – from toilet facilities to carparks,” said Minister Davis.

But Kelly said that that help needs to extend to the healthcare facilities provided in rural areas, which can find themselves stretched during peak tourism times.

“Tourism is a great thing for the New Zealand economy. But managing its impacts goes beyond more toilets and carparks,” he said.

“The classic New Zealand tourism experience is accessed directly through rural New Zealand and already booming tourism numbers are placing great strain on stretched rural health services.

“Across 75 regions of New Zealand outside urban centres, many rural doctors and nurses –often the only medical staff in their community –provide the rural emergency first-responder service as well as trying to manage local patients and the tourism influx.”

He said many of those rural communities could experience a tenfold increase in population numbers over the popular summer holiday season, for example.

At the height of those seasons, a rural doctor or nurse could head out to up to six air ambulance call-outs in one day, he said, effectively leaving the local community with no health support.

“Decisions around allocating revenue from a tourist tax will need to reflect the real needs of rural communities – not just the highly visible issues like carpark congestion.”

Feedback for the proposed tax is being sought by the Government now, with written submissions accepted until July 15.

Australians and most Pacific Islanders would be exempt from paying the levy, as would children under 2 years old, seasonal workers and those in transit.

Source: NZ Herald

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