DOC preparing to host more Kiwis than ever
It’s anticipated more New Zealanders than ever will enjoy time in the great outdoors this year as border restrictions remain in place, says Minister of Conservation Kiri Allan.
Each year the Department of Conservation (DOC) invests significant additional resources into managing visitors over the busy summer season and this year is no exception.
“DOC is embracing the opportunity this year offers to connect more Kiwis than ever to the wonders of their backyard – the wildlife, their cultural heritage and the stunning landscapes that Aotearoa has in such abundance.
“We are targeting $3.5m of operating expenditure specifically towards popular sites to ensure conservation facilities are well maintained and people have optimal experiences when they are outdoors.
“DOC rangers will be out servicing popular sites, checking compliance, keeping toilets, tracks, huts and campsites in good condition, protecting the natural environment and telling the stories of our species and places.”
DOC bookings data to 31 October 2020, shows 2020/21 Great Walks bednight bookings (excluding the Milford and Routeburn tracks which are operating reduced seasons this year due to storm damage) are up 23%, and 93% of them were made by New Zealanders.
“That is pretty extraordinary,” Kiri Allan said. “And not only that, the data also shows more people are set to undertake a Great Walk this year than ever.
“Equally surprising, across all 10 Great Walks, revenue is up six per cent compared to the same time last year despite the loss of international visitors and the increased prices they were paying on the Milford, Routeburn, Kepler and Abel Tasman Great Walks.
“While we pull through the last weeks of what has been a very tough year, it’s great to see so many Kiwis getting to know their country and deriving the many benefits time spent in nature provides.
“We know these numbers won’t fully make up for the loss of international visitors to our tourism industry and economy. However the flow-on effects will definitely see people, regions and rural communities better supported through the current COVID crisis,” Kiri Allan said.
DOC has also recently added more facilities to the booking system to provide people with greater certainty of a bed, particularly for families, prior to their trip. So far more than 11,000 New Zealanders have made bookings in bookable DOC-managed huts and campsites this year.
Recent Tourism New Zealand research shows a considerable proportion of New Zealanders, 64%, are planning to shift their overseas holiday spend towards domestic holidays and that 72% of New Zealanders are planning a holiday within the next 12-months.
“It’s fantastic to see so many getting out into the regions and supporting our rural communities, but respect and care is needed. We don’t have our international guests to hide behind this year and DOC is reminding people – tread lightly, remove all waste, give wildlife space, go prepared and remember to practice good hygiene to reduce the spread of illness,” Kiri Allan said.
“DOC manages, on behalf of New Zealanders, 14,000 km of tracks, over 13,000 historic sites, almost 1000 huts and more than 300 campsites, so get out there, get among it, be kind and stay safe.”