Where the Wild Things Were?

Conservation and Recreation in New Zealand

A recent tramping trip to Huxley near Ohau during school holidays with his children made Spiralis Director, Paul Pope think about what we value in New Zealand.

In New Zealand we’re very fortunate to have  a wealth of riches  in recreational opportunities provided by our extensive national parks and conservation estate throughout the country. Those opportunities provide genuine back country experiences to thousands of New Zealanders and visitors every year. Importantly, recreational activity in these areas also plays a part in the generation of income in local and regional economies centred around these sites.

The performance and management of back country recreational areas largely rests with the Department of Conservation in New Zealand, who to all intents and purposes does a fine job of the provision of services and facilities for recreation. Which seems at odds with the drive to find economic gains through tourism development and the reduction of the Department’s funding by central government. It’s a counter intuitive juxtaposition between economic performance and genuine economic gain, that may ultimately cost New Zealand in the long-term. Earlier this year the government announced the need for the Department of Conservation to find external sources of private sector funding and to capitalise on “unrealised opportunities”. However, the slowing global economy has continued to dry up private sector sponsorship in conservation projects and the department’s outlook for providing quality conservation and recreation services seems bleak in the current economic climate. It also means that we devalue our overseas and local “product” and at the same reduce the very values that we seek to promote and protect.

New Zealand has promulgated the “clean green”  and “pure” images as key components of its tourism marketing strategies. Though there is reasonable debate that those images don’t meet the reality of the environmental impacts of tourism or the country’s environmental management. Whatever your view on those strategies many visitors come to New Zealand for scenery, flora and fauna and a genuine “wilderness” experience that they perceive can only be found uniquely in our country. New Zealanders share those same values combined with an attitude of pioneering birthright to use open spaces recreationally. This raises an important issue for the government on whether it understands the value of the  management of our conservation areas for our economy and society.

To have a successful tourism economy that adds value to our society government must continue to support the protection and conservation of biodiversity, landscape and natural heritage in order to ensure the integrity of the “brand” it so desperately wants to promote. It also places projects such as the Snowden monorail and Milford/Dart tunnel in direct conflict with those values which may irrevocably damage our brands reputation. There is a need by government and industry to have a far deeper understanding of the economic, societal and cultural returns that conservation provides to New Zealand, so that our economy and lifestyle is not compromised. View pictures as album.

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