Visitor levy Bill illustrates the commons of local authority infrastructure

Yesterday I happened to turn on a Parliamentary debate on a Bill called the Southland District Council (Stewart Island/Rakiura Visitor Levy) Empowering Bill. The legislation would give the council, whose rating basis is very small, the right to charge visitors up to $5 to pay for the island's growing tourist infrastructure. It would be expected to raise about $250,000 a year.

I was heartened by this debate. Not only had the Select Committee had a very collegial discussion on it, but there was little opposition in Parliament, other than worrying that other councils might follow suit. I hope they do. Far North District Council could be one.

The infrastructure of roads, sewers, community halls, water, wastewater and stormwater is part of the local commons. It was built by the people and belongs to the people so the people have the right to charge others for the rent of it, no matter how temporary.

Our national built infrastructure of our roads, dams, power stations and electricity network is similarly part of our commons and should never be sold off. The sweat of our nation's grandfathers is in those dams. The vultures are coming to get it, including the land. Those who would sell it are guilty of treason. And they are coming to Greece right now. Imagine selling off the Parthenon, the cultural commons of the Greeks.

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