Tourist flight into Queenstown
Photo by Asher Wilson-Goldman

Not 100% report provides opportunities for walkways and cycle trails 

New tourism recommendations could benefit walkways, cycleways, and the environment. 

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment released his ‘Not 100% — but four steps closer to sustainable tourism’ report yesterday. 

This follows his 2019 report ‘Pristine, popular… imperilled? The environmental consequences of projected tourism growth’, which critiqued the impact the tourism industry has upon our environment. 

In the COVID-19 era, it is hard to remember how big an industry tourism was in 2019. Or how much pressure growing tourism was putting on our environment. 

The Commissioner’s 4 recommendations have implications for public access to the outdoors. 

COVID-19 has shifted our tourism industry’s focus from international visitors to domestic ones. Many tourism companies have suffered. But some businesses that rely on public outdoor access have welcomed a renewed interest from Kiwi tourists. The Commissioner’s recommendations for an international flight departure tax may also help the tourism industry to support New Zealanders connecting with our own outdoors. 

Likewise, the recommendation to make future funding for tourism infrastructure conditional on environmental criteria will support good tracks and trails infrastructure. For instance, good toilets reduce pressure on the environment and make for better walkways. So do rubbish bins and adequate car parks. Well graded and marked walkways help people to stay on the path rather than wander into environmentally sensitive bush. 

The recommendation to tighten rules about commercial activity on conservation lands and waters will help shift tourist numbers. Areas that are struggling to manage high numbers of visitors can better cope. Meanwhile, areas that need tourists for regional economic development can use new walking tracks and cycle trails to grow.