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Tourism Industry Aotearoa acknowledges new approaches needed to manage the environmental impact of tourism

Tourism Industry Aotearoa acknowledges new approaches needed to manage the environmental impact of tourism
December 19, 2019

Tourism Industry Aotearoa has acknowledged the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s new report as making “a valuable contribution to achieving the future New Zealanders want”.

Responding to the Pristine,popular…imperilled? The environmental consequences of projected tourism growth report, published yesterday, Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) has highlighted that the “primary goal of tourism is to benefit Aotearoa” with TIA Chief Executive, Chris Roberts advising that the tourism industry is already strongly focused on protecting and enhancing the environment that visitors come to enjoy.

The report, which looks at how the industry, and the environmental pressures it generates, could evolve in the future, was released yesterday by New Zealand Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton.

Noting that the report acknowledges the tourism industry’s efforts to address environmental, social and cultural issues, Roberts explains “nobody wants tourism at all costs. The industry creates business opportunities and jobs, attracts foreign exchange and investment, and adds vibrancy to communities around the country.

“But we want to work with our communities to shape the tourism future they want.”

Roberts welcomed that the report notes that the majority of tourism activity in New Zealand is by New Zealanders and that the nation’s growing resident population also brings pressures.

Surprisingly, Roberts suggest that it is impossible to predict with any accuracy how many domestic and international visitors there may be in 2050, explaining that the industry has no target for how many visitors there should be - rather, it has targets for economic contribution, environmental enhancement, visitor experience and community support.

Roberts added “if we protect and enhance the environment, have thriving businesses that share the benefits with our communities and deliver outstanding visitor experiences, then we will have the right number of visitors for New Zealand.”

TIA agrees with the Commissioner’s finding that new approaches will be needed to manage the environmental impact of tourism, citing initiatives like the Tiaki Promise and the New Zealand Tourism Sustainability Commitment that have been enthusiastically adopted by the industry, with almost 1300 businesses now signed up to the latter.

Local Government New Zealand President, Dave Cull welcomed Commissioner Upton’s findings that domestic and international tourists are putting too much pressure on the country’s environment.

He explained “central government has done a great job of marketing New Zealand’s prime tourism destinations, particularly to international visitors, but have literally passed the buck when it comes to funding the infrastructure and managing the very real impacts that local communities see on the ground.

“More people than ever want to visit New Zealand, which is fantastic for our regions and economy. We can see the benefits, but we can also see the challenges to our environment and heritage.

“Councils are guided by the four well-beings, so are critically aware that we need to strike a balance in any endeavour.

“Tourism brings great economic opportunities to towns and cities across New Zealand, but we have to get the balance right and ensure that it’s not to our environmental, social or cultural detriment.”

“The Commissioner is right to ask whether we’re in danger of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Cull highlighted that while the direct tax benefits from tourist activity, such as GST, PAYE and profit taxes flow into central government's coffers, ratepayers, which in many regions of New Zealand are outnumbered by international visitors, provide the local roads, footpaths, drinking water, waste water, toilets, parks and other facilities. This can lead to poor environmental outcomes.

Cull added “like the Government’s Tourism Strategy, the Commissioner’s report highlights the pressures of high volume tourism and the need for New Zealand to instead focus on high value tourism.

“But right now we need to start putting real, sustained investment into infrastructure to support the industry and protect the environment, not just grants and contestable funding. That’s why LGNZ is right behind introducing a local tourism tax in Queenstown, similar to what is found in many of the world’s most popular tourism destinations.”

“Our regions welcome the opportunities that tourism brings, but we need to find a balance to maintain tourisms environmental and social licence with our communities. Visitor arrivals are forecast to reach 5.1 million by 2024, so more flexibility to have those tourists pay their own way is needed.”

Click here to view the homepage for the report from the the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment: Pristine,popular…imperilled? The environmental consequences of projected tourism growth (2019).

Images: Walkers at Mount Roy (top) and Roys Peak, the ideal and the reality (below, Lukas Stefanko/@LukasStefanko Source:Reddit).

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