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Abel Tasman proposals unfair on tourism businesses

Media Release

Abel Tasman proposals unfair on tourism businesses

10 May 2006

Tourism businesses cannot operate effectively in Abel Tasman National Park if they have only five years security of tenure, the Tourism Industry Association New Zealand (TIA) says.

In its submission to the Abel Tasman National Park Draft Management Plan, TIA has called on the Department of Conservation (DOC) to offer longer terms with conditional rights of renewal to existing tourism operators in the park.

The Draft Plan is vague about what will happen with concessions (tourism businesses’ permit to operate on public conservation lands) after 2011. TIA says this does not encourage businesses to act responsibly and with care for the environment.

“Businesses cannot operate effectively with only five-year business horizons. Our Members must have concessions that reflect business reality and encourage concessionaire investment and commitment,” TIA Chief Executive Fiona Luhrs says.

This has recently been recognised by the Southland Conservation Board which has asked DOC to investigate whether aircraft operators in Milford Sound should be given 20 year concessions after considering TIA’s submissions to the Fiordland National Park Draft Management Plan.

“DOC has made considerable effort to consult with tourism businesses operating in the Abel Tasman National Park and we congratulate them on that. We look forward to continuing discussions on the future of this icon of New Zealand tourism,” Ms Luhrs says.

Abel Tasman is the smallest but most visited national park in New Zealand, attracting about 150,000 New Zealanders and international visitors a year. A DOC study has found that it contributes $45 million and has led to the creation of 370 full-time jobs in the region.

“TIA is concerned that proposals in the Draft Management Plan will hamper tourism operators’ ability to run successful businesses. We are aware of the importance of preserving the natural values of the park for future generations but we are looking for decisions from DOC that are fair and reasonable,” Ms Luhrs says.

Tourism operations such as guided sea kayaking enhance visitors’ appreciation of the park and also offer a means of managing people so they have minimal impact.

The Draft Management Plan proposes to cap commercial operations in the park at peak times but there are no similar controls on people visiting the park independently, Ms Luhrs says.

“Placing limits on tourism businesses but not other user groups is inequitable and will not solve the problem of over-crowding during the peak period. We are asking DOC to develop a visitation management plan that also addresses the management of independent visitors to the park during peak times.”

The Association has also called for DOC to:

- reconsider its proposal to limit commercial access points to four specific bays

- limit the proposed two night restriction at campsites to the peak season, allowing longer stays during the rest of the year so that park use is encouraged during the quieter seasons

- ensure toilet, hut and camp capacities are adequate for expected visitor growth.

“Before placing rigid limits on commercial tourism activities, DOC must carry out sound research and monitoring to ensure the proposed limits are reasonable and will not unfairly target tourism operators,” Ms Luhrs says.

The proposed limits in the Draft Plan are not backed by rigorous research and TIA says DOC should err on the high side of permitted visitor numbers until research has been carried out to measure visitors’ impacts on the environment.

To read TIA’s full submission to the Abel Tasman National Park Draft Management Plan, go to www.tianz.org.nz

ENDS

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