Supporting communities to manage tourism

The rapid growth in tourism pre-COVID-19 was creating flow-on impacts in our communities.

The pressure on infrastructure, environment and quality of life for some New Zealanders meant tourism started to lose its social licence to operate.

4 key areas of government work underway to strengthen communities’ ability to manage tourism which will help to rebuild the social licence for tourism and deliver on our tikanga values are:

  • Destination Management Plans
  • Milford Opportunities Project
  • Responsible camping reforms
  • the Tourism Infrastructure Fund.

Destination Management Plans

Communities should have an active role in the management of tourism in their region.

Destination Management brings together different stakeholders to achieve the common goal of developing a well-managed, sustainable visitor destination. It is an ongoing process that requires destinations to plan for their future and considers the social, economic, cultural and environmental risks and opportunities.

Communities should have an active role in the management of tourism in their region and mana whenua have an essential role in Destination Management as Treaty partners. Common challenges communities want solved are noise, over-crowding, damage to the natural environment and a lack of cultural context for visitors.

The Government has invested over $47 million to help grow Destination Management competencies and capabilities. By the end of 2022, all 31 of New Zealand-Aotearoa’s Regional Tourism Organisations will have developed a unique Destination Management Plan in partnership with their communities and stakeholders.

Case study: Te Ūnga Mai

Regional Tourism New Zealand is delivering a Professional Development Programme called Te Ūnga Mai, designed to build the skills, knowledge and capability of Regional Tourism Organisation staff throughout New Zealand. The Programme is designed to guide and support teams across New Zealand-Aotearoa in developing and implementing future-focused and action-orientated Destination Management Plans.

In May 2022, teams came together for a four-day wānanga in Te Tai Tokerau, where they networked, shared their experiences and heard from a range of international and Aotearoa-based speakers including the Minister of Tourism. Online modules, facilitated learning, and discussion continue to be delivered across RTNZ’s online platform, Tūhono.

Milford Opportunities Project

Milford Sound Piopiotahi is one of New Zealand’s most popular visitor attractions and iconic destinations.

Government is applying the principles of Destination Management to Milford Sound Piopiotahi. Milford Sound Piopiotahi is one of New Zealand’s most popular visitor attractions and iconic destinations. The current Milford Road corridor and Milford Sound Piopiotahi have been under stress from over-tourism for years. The response to this challenge is the Milford Opportunities Project.

The project’s members include representatives from iwi, business, local government and central government. The members have worked together to develop a masterplan, which was published in July 2021.

The masterplan has required new thinking to safeguard the core character and values, World Heritage status, conservation values and the visitor experience that New Zealanders and our international visitors expect from such an iconic destination. The foundations of the project are based on manaakitanga and kaitiakitanga, and a true mana whenua partnership.

The Government is investing $15 million for Stage Three of the project. This phase begins in 2022 and will test the feasibility of the recommendations in the masterplan.

The Government’s ambition is for the Milford Opportunities Project to become a template used in other key tourism destinations across the country.

Case study: Controlling access to Piopiotahi

One of the proposals in the Masterplan, released to the public in July 2021, was to place controls on accessing the road from Te Anau to Milford Sound Piopiotahi. The Masterplan proposed to do this in two ways:

  1. Access through a permit system – free to New Zealanders, with international visitors charged for access through a permit and bus
  2. Zero emission hop-on hop-off buses will be the main transport on the road, with a park and ride system

Responsible camping reforms

A campervan is parked on the roadside next to Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki, Canterbury

Photo: Christopher Moss

Improving the sustainability of freedom camping in New Zealand.

Freedom camping has a long history in New Zealand-Aotearoa. Many New Zealanders and international visitors enjoy travelling and experiencing a range of camping experiences around the country, including camping for free.

In the years prior to COVID-19, the number of freedom campers steadily increased. Communities raised concerns about the environmental impact of freedom campers and the cost of hosting them, particularly those visitors staying in cars or vans that did not have a toilet. Poor visitor behaviour was starting to impact Brand New Zealand.

Despite the substantial number of freedom campers who do the right thing, and the Government’s $25 million investment in responsible camping, it was clear that more needed to be done.

Our freedom camping reforms are about improving the sustainability of freedom camping in New Zealand, protecting the natural environment and local communities’ enjoyment of it, and supporting efforts to ensure that all freedom camping is done responsibly. The reforms will include new rules for self-contained vehicles (which includes them having a fixed toilet) and a strengthened infringement system.

Case study: Responsible Camping Ambassador Programmes

Through the Government’s investment in responsible camping, funding was allocated to develop and run Ambassador Programmes for local councils across the country. While their function varied between councils, these programmes were introduced for the purposes of educating campers to encourage more responsible camping behaviour, maintenance, monitoring and enforcement.

Tourism Infrastructure Fund

Protect and enhance New Zealand’s reputation and support visitor experience.

The Tourism Infrastructure Fund was introduced to develop tourism-related infrastructure and support local communities facing pressure from tourism growth, for example areas with higher visitor numbers but small ratepayer bases.

The Tourism Infrastructure Fund aims to protect and enhance New Zealand’s reputation and support the visitor experience. Ensuring that robust visitor infrastructure is in place contributes to both quality experiences for visitors and maintains the social licence for the sector to operate.

Projects are co-funded in partnership with local councils (or community organisations with council support) and each round of the Tourism Infrastructure Fund has a different funding priorities statement. In 2022, for the first time, the Fund considered infrastructure projects to support the delivery and management of Matariki events to mark the first year of the new public holiday.

Case study: Manapouri infrastructure

Manapouri is a small town in Fiordland that is the gateway for journeys to Doubtful Sound, along with a variety of renowned walking tracks. Prior to COVID-19, peak visitor demand to the area caused traffic hazards and shoreline deterioration, including significant wear and tear on the local boat ramp, car park and toilet facilities. This detracted from the visitor experience and undermined local support for tourism in the area. The Tourism Infrastructure Fund contributed $1.1 million to upgrade this infrastructure