516 days ago

Government accused of stealing after taking tourist tax from people denied NZ visas

Brian from New Lynn

A tax levy introduced last year on visitors entering New Zealand to help fund tourism infrastructure is under scrutiny as the $35.00 International Visitor Levy is also being collected from people who never set foot in the country. Foreigners denied visitor visas here are automatically charged the levy, with some calling it theft.
Already close to a million dollars has been covertly collected in just six months. The levy is effectively a tax on tourists to help pay for tourism and conservation infrastructure improvements. But the problem is those who apply to come here as visitors but are turned down are also paying. The levy was introduced last July and figures obtained show in the first six months to December almost 285,000 thousand visitor visa applications were lodged with Immigration New Zealand but more than 24,000 of those were declined. Still, they were charged the $35.00 levy meaning the government pocketed more than $850,000 from people who'll never set foot on Kiwi soil.
Robyn Kurth and her group of friends attempted to bring out two Ethiopian guides to New Zealand as visitors but they were refused entry. She says the Government taking the fee from them amounts to theft. “So where's the $35.00? I want it back,” she says. “It can't be charged to people who are not coming here. How can we charge them if they're not actually going to use the facilities?” Immigration lawyer Ramya Sathiyanathan calls it deception. She says the online application is far from clear about the levy. “It's hidden, I presume quite intentionally in the online application form and it's only when you print a receipt you see it's been taken as part of the overall fee,” she says. The ministry says collecting the levy at time of application keeps admin costs down and confirms there is no provision for refunds. “What I think is important is that it's clear to people up front is that that fee is non-refundable and I think that's something that immigration New Zealand needs to deal with and i understand that they are.

More messages from your neighbours
2 days ago

Dawn Raids apology event in Auckland postponed

Melanie Earley Reporter from Auckland Stuff

Kia ora neighbours, the official apology for the Dawn Raids has been postponed due to the Covid-19 alert level change.

Last week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Government would formally apologise to the Pasifika community for the race-based dawn raids of the 1970s.

The ceremony was due to take place on Saturday evening in Auckland, but has been delayed.

Click the link below to read the full story.

15 hours ago

Rates rise not enough to avoid 2 year delay to Eastern Busway

Todd Niall Reporter from Auckland Stuff

Kia ora Neighbours, Despite a focus on public transport investment, a surprise delay has been announced to the end of the big Eastern Busway project, to 2028. Will this affect you? Read the story below:

10 days ago

Slower Car Traffic Around the city

Lucian from Glen Eden

I heard this podcast lately where NZTA (or Waka Kotahi) is stating car traffic is being slowed on purpose in order to "make it easier to get around"! ?! (See link below)

Personally, even if you agree or not with the purpose of such a policy, the way it's been implemented, i.e. without previous consultation, without publicity, and without alternatives - it appears to me that car commuters are treated like irresponsible children and not grown up adults.
It looks like the transport agency's role to make transport faster is being hijacked into changing the transport by making it SLOWER and yes, SAFER, with the declared purpose of "making it easier to get around". Of course, if your car is not moving you're perfectly safe!

I find this would work great in Europe, where I was able to use the EFFICIENT, FAST and PUNCTUAL public system to get around. But this infrastructure is NOT NEAR close enough to what's required as an alternative to using your vehicle in Auckland, as any trip by bus or train will usually take twice as long. Of Europe has a bigger economic capacity, and the reality in tiny NZ is the car is still reigning in most socio-economic communities as a main means of transport.
Such a policy would make sense if there would be an option in planning or building / execution, but in my view, there isn't a viable transport alternative yet in the works.
So, in my view, car commuter are left with is put up with more delays, frustration, time wasted, fuel burned in slower traffic as there's no alternative - in the name of a rushed ideology with no proper investment or planning. To poke a bit of sarcastic fun, it looks like a nanny state, where the nanny doesn't know what to do, but wishes to appear strong and confident...
I wonder if people find this decision although nice in it's intention, as completely missing the mark and not addressing the real issue of under investment in the public transport system.
It's timing might be right in 5 or 10 years from now when hopefully some of the much needed public infrastructure projects (electrification of the rail past Swanson, Airport train or light rail loop, etc) will be closed or near to completion. Until then, in my view, it's just another bit adding to people's frustration who have no alternative to commuting to work, shopping, transporting kids to/from events etc etc.