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NZ Outdoor Recreation Could Be Big Business

NZ Outdoor Recreation Could Be Big Business

A New Zealand outdoor recreation advocacy says outdoor recreation is a very big contributor to the economy, but lacked appreciation by government.

Andi Cockroft, co-chairman of the Council of Outdoor Recreation said a recent study in the US showed the outdoor recreation industry’s contribution to the US’s GDP was larger than that of all mining, including the extraction of oil and gas.

“And the US study showed the industry is expanding. In 2016, it grew 3.8 percent, compared to the overall economy’s growth of 2.8 percent,” he said.

Andi Cockroft said it confirmed what many strongly suspected that outdoor recreation was a big business.

“The impact of activities like boating, fishing, mountain biking, recreational vehicle treks, hunting, camping, hiking and others, is immense,” he said. “Many businesses benefited in accommodation, charters and guiding, travel and many retail businesses. Significantly such expenditure flowed strongly into regions.”

Fishing Whopper

Andi Cockroft said the strong clue that the US study conclusions would be similar in New Zealand was a 2016 study by the NZ Marine Research Foundation that recreational saltwater fishing benefited the national economy by supporting 8,100 jobs and stimulating $1.7 billion per annum in total economic activity. Participation in both fresh and saltwater fishing increased by 10 percent between 2008 and 2014 and was trending upwards.

“If fisheries are kept strong and resilient, that contribution of recreational fishing can grow even more,” he said. “That’s the crux - outdoor recreation has greater economic potential than commercially exploiting fish stocks to exhaustion.”

Unfortunately economic data on the recreational fishing industry had been previously lacking and governments tended to strongly favour commercial interests, to the extent of ignoring the recreational fishing public.

Political Donations

This was in a large measure due to corporate fishing companies “investing” heavily in political parties by way of donations to get preferential favours.

“New Zealand has too often overlooked the significant contributions generated by marine recreational fishers,” said Andi Cockroft. “Extend the recreational saltwater study to all outdoor recreation and the monetary value of total outdoor recreation to the economy would be in several billions of dollars per year.”

Futile Ideology

He warned that the ideology of locking outdoor resources up or trying to restore New Zealand to 500 AD by measures such as mass aerial poisoning was futile and self-defeating.

“Locking the public out of their own lands while ignorantly poisoning the ecosystem, which outdoor recreation is based on, is plain stupid.”

Rather than just exploiting the outdoors as a resource, as previous governments had done, valuing participation in outdoor recreation should stimulate a new culture in politics and the public service. Outdoor recreation has proven physical and mental health benefits.

Appreciating the value of outdoor recreation benefited conservation values and New Zealand’s vaunted “clean and green” marketing image for exports and tourists Andi Cockroft said. Outdoor recreation was also a significant tourist drawcard adding to the economic value by New Zealanders.

“Often that is the bottom line by which you can protect these natural resources, by showing the economic driver that they are in terms of outdoor recreation”.

Stats. NZ Failing
It was revealing that while other developed nations could value and quantify the health and economic benefits outdoor recreation made to their economies, the recent Statistics NZ report on the economic value of our natural resources ignored it completely.

Referring to the recent election of Simon Bridges to National Party leadership, Andi Cockroft said politicians particularly needed to heed the US study and its application to New Zealand. He pointed out that the previous Government’s Energy Minister was Simon Bridges who signed off the public’s biggest forest park for oil and gas exploration and then later admitted he had never heard of the park.

“At stake were environmental and recreational values, all of much greater value than mining as the American study showed,” he said.

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