Rise in DOC spending aimed at educating tourists

10:48 am on 6 January 2019

The Department of Conservation is putting $3.6 million in extra funding into helping visitors and making sure they don't harm the environment this summer.

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DOC has an 25 extra rangers working in tourism hot spots, such as Castle Hill in the South Island, this summer. Photo: 123rf

International and domestic visitor numbers has increased over recent years and so has their collective impact, said Department of Conservation (DOC) director of recreation, tourism and heritage Gavin Walker.

"While most of the domestic and international visitors care about the environment, we all have different understandings of what it means to look after a place," he said.

"New Zealand has unique species and landscapes that are found nowhere else on earth - so it's vital that we educate everyone on how best to treat them."

Last year, the government approved an extra $2m to address tourism pressures across the country and this year, that increase was 80 percent higher at $3.6 m.

The funding was earmarked for work to minimise the impact from visitors, protect natural and cultural sites, and help cover the rising costs of maintaining and servicing increasingly popular tourist areas.

DOC was "significantly increasing" its work to educate people to avoid harming the environment, Mr Walker said.

This includes urging people to take litter with them, use bins, and dispose of campervan toilet and wastewater in designated places.

"There can be some distance between toilets in New Zealand - so never miss an opportunity to use a loo.

"If you get caught out, make sure you bury your business away from other people, wildlife and waterways."

It was important to give wildlife at least 20 metres of space to avoid causing stress to seals, birds, dolphins and other creatures, Mr Walker said.

Drones were another common source of problems, he said. "Anyone who wants to fly a drone near our parks and wildlife needs to check the DOC website to see whether they need a permit."

This year, 25 additional rangers would be working in tourism hot spots, Mr Walker said.

Nine of the extra rangers will be focused on collecting fees. Another 16 storytelling rangers will try to connect visitors to New Zealand's history and wildlife, offer information and make sure visitors are comfortable.

The rangers will help maintain facilities and call for responsible visitor behaviour.

The rangers will be in key sites, such as Te Wāhipounamu World Heritage Site, Northland, Rangitoto Summit in Auckland's harbour, Kura Tawhiti/ Castle Hill, Whakapapa Village, and at Franz Josef Glacier.

DOC will recommend people undertake activities and tours with companies that have signed up to the Tourism Sustainability Commitment, which involves working to reduce the environmental impacts of tourism.