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GUEST BLOG: Donna Awatere Huata – Let’s Rethink New Zealand’s Low Cost Tourism Strategy

By   /  January 22, 2019  /  8 Comments

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Not only is cheap tourism degrading our environment and our infrastructure, but it is also contributing to our appalling record over the past ten years of gas emissions increases when they were meant to be decreasing. 

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One loud, rubbish strewing family, bolting from restaurants and careening down the North Island has dented the once abundant goodwill towards the tourism industry. But the real damage to that goodwill has come from a public fed up with years of cheap tourism and the strain that has put on our infrastructure, with reckless driving, accidents and near misses, with rubbish dumped in pristine settings, with toileting where ever – in bushes (in towns as well as in the wild)and in rivers and with subsiding this low cost tourism by paying for over stretched infrastructure. It’s fair to say the sheen of tourism has long gone. 

As if that’s not enough of a wakeup call, research into the gas emissions of tourism in 160 countries by Dr Arunima Malik of the University of Sydney shows that tourism is responsible for four times more greenhouse gas emissions than previously estimated – and world wide is responsible for 8% of all gas emissions. 

So not only is cheap tourism degrading our environment and our infrastructure, but it is also contributing to our appalling record over the past ten years of gas emissions increases when they were meant to be decreasing. 

As the golden halo around tourism dims it’s time for an environmental and social review of the sustainability of the cheap tourism path New Zealand has taken.

An environmental and social review would first answer the question of how sustainable it is  to have 4 million tourists visit New Zealand every year. That’s almost as many people who actually live here. We need to know the greenhouse gas impact of a rise to 6 million visitors or even 8 million. In this era of climate catastrophe  the tourism industry can no longer plan for unlimited growth. 

An environmental and social review would prescribe how many tourists our current infrastructure and fragile environments can cope with. It would identify the current and future impacts of tourism so we can plan to transform the industry to higher returns per visitor and to minimise emissions. 

What remains of our once pristine environment must be treasured and marketed accordingly because of its special taonga and mana status and we should reflect that by pricing tourism experiences at a premium to offset the environmental damage. We may need to regulate the industry to ensure it takes its duties of kaitiakitanga punctiliously.

Last year our family wine business, was a finalist in the NZ Māori Tourism Awards giving us the opportunity of hearing leading Māori tourism operators on the future of both their business and the industry. The winner was a marae who connected whakapapa and kaitiakitanga to a highly personal authentic cultural experience which could readily be marketed  into the high end luxury market. 

Industry leader Air New Zealand could lead the task of upvaluing our environment and of marketing our tourism services as premium experiences. It has made a commitment in the past four years to focus on reductions and innovation – achieving a 21% reduction in fuel efficiency – the fact is that the number of visitors they are flying in is outstripping their efforts to bring their fuel emissions down (they went up 3%). 

Increasingly tourists will want to know about the environmental and social impacts of their travel. and we would be well advised to get ahead of the game and get our own impact reports done. These would form an accurate basis for industry planning on the steps it needs to take to adapt to a changing climate. Doing nothing is not an option.


Donna Awatere Huata
Māori Climate Commissioner

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  1. Gosman says:

    Are you arguing that visiting NZ should only be for rich tourists?

    • Sam Sam says:

      No gooie. We are arguing that scaling up tourism has diminishing returns. In regional NZ the average wage is about $21k. Hospitality produces an average wage of about $20k so more hospitality just makes NZ poorer. And thicc.

      • Gosman says:

        I thought Tourism was the Greens solution to economic development in places which preciously relied on environmentally damaging extractive activity such as mining, oil exploration, Dairying, and cutting down native forests.

        • Sam Sam says:

          Winners don’t make excuses when the other side don’t want to play fair. So if you’ve got nothing better to then do tourism, but tourism won’t fill the ranks of university, and to much tourism will cause gaps in ifrastructure because tourists don’t pay tax, so having your population swell to greater than 50% is a bad thing. Just know that gooie is shit at doing calculations but he makes a mean bullshit pie.

  2. Johnnybg says:

    When my vision of an Aoteroan or Zealandian Confederacy eventually becomes a reality, the future of tourism in each of our autonomous regions will be decided upon by the local administrations that govern them.

    An update from the Prophet of Zealnadia; as founder of the Breakaway NZ movement I have decided to form the Breakaway NZ Alliance. I will be reaching out to the Republic of Whangamomona in the hope that they may consider becoming the first member of this radical alliance.

    As I have also developed a design concept for the autonomous Kingdom of Ayvangaard I will also be launching an Ayexit campaign.

    The aim of this radical campaign will be to drum up support for my dream of establishing the independent homeland of Ayvangaard within NZ & then exiting brand global NZ.

    This experimental eco-city homeland will then become an inspirational model for others who also dream of bringing about a more locally focused, sustainable, post-globalisation world.

    The Prophet of Zealandia

  3. Brutus Iscariot says:

    Agree 100% – should be at least a 100 dollar inbound visitor levy.

    If we are going to have mass tourism, we may as well make more money off it. The fact that we have so many, tends to imply that we are underpricing our offering.

    TBH it would be a godsend if we had fewer low-value tourists clogging our natural beauty.

  4. GreenBus says:

    Most poo and nappies in the bushes is from car people, they don’t have toilets and rubbish bins on board. Most pollution in our disgusting lakes and rivers is caused by diary farming and industry drain off. Very, very little pollution comes from a parking area full of vans and small motor campers having a cheap holiday. People have basic needs like toilets and rubbish collection dump stations etc. More, more, more, Councils just get on with it! Increase your rubbish collection, put in more toilets and clean them you idiots. Blaming tourists for leaving a little mess at popular spots that are devoid of rubbish and toilet services is typical bullshit. Cater for these people or close the borders.

  5. tony says:

    The real problem in NZ is the transportation that is used the private motor Vehicle tourism needs to be conducted around low impact rail of which we still have an awful lot still in place and under utilised but as all things in NZ only the oil and vehicle companies and there cling ons are allowed to profit anything else is secondary

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