22 Mar 2014

Tourist tax mulled for diesel spill town

8:46 pm on 22 March 2014

A tax on tourists is being considered to help pay for a multi-million dollar water upgrade following a diesel spill that polluted the water supply to the small town of Raetihi last year.

Up to 19,000 litres of diesel leaked into the Makotuku Stream in the Tongariro National Park from a tank at the base of a skifield run by Ruapehu Alpine Lifts in October 2013.

Ruapehu District mayor Don Cameron says the spill has prompted the district to urgently look at upgrading water pipes for three towns, which will cost tens of millions of dollars.

The project will need financial help from the Government and the council will also consider a $1-a-head tourist tax to help pay for infrastructure, "We're getting about a million tourists now a year so it would certainly help."

Mr Cameron said it would take at least two years to pull together all the information needed and consult with the community, before work can begin on the project.

Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council has announced it will prosecute Ruapehu Alpine Lifts and its diesel supplier Petroleum Services Limited in the Environment Court.

It said given the findings of an investigation and the impact on the Raetihi community, it is important that the Environment Court decides how the matter will proceed.

Mr Cameron said a prosecution was important though Ruapehu Alpine Lifts has co-operated with the investigation and contributed to the cost of a hydrocarbon sensor to prevent a repeat of the spill.

Ruapehu Alpine Lifts chief executive Dave Mazey said the company reviewed procedures and equipment to try to ensure such a thing does not happen again.