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NZ/Fiji aid project wins top tourism award

NZ/Fiji aid project wins top tourism award

A New Zealand supported conservation and ecotourism project in Fiji has won a major international tourism prize, Aid Minister Marian Hobbs said today.

The Bouma National Heritage Park project has taken first place in the Protected Area and Natural Parks category of the British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards. It is now in the running for the overall prize, the winner of which will be announced on November 27 at a presentation dinner in London.

"These awards have a high profile in the industry and receive a great deal of media coverage in Britain and Europe," Marian Hobbs said. "It's great to see the Bouma project recognised, both for the Fijian people who have made it happen and the New Zealand aid programme that has supported it."

The Bouma project is funded by the New Zealand government's international development agency, NZAID, and managed through Wellington-based Tourism Resource Consultants Ltd.

Its goal is to protect the communities and ecosystems of part of Fiji's "garden island", Taveuni, by creating sustainable income while preserving the natural environment and local culture. The project was begun in 1989 at a time when there was increasing pressure on the islanders to log their hardwood forests - for conversion to toothpicks.

The Bouma National Heritage Park is owned and managed by four villages, which jointly benefit from the 5000-odd overseas tourists who each year visit the area's bush, waterfalls and scenic coastline. Entry fees from the different attractions are ploughed back into developing new resources, such as a backpackers' lodge, visitor centres, toilets, tracks and signs.

The individual villages decide through committees how to spend surplus income, typically on community facilities such as sports fields, additional housing, school equipment, two way radios and training courses.

"This approach to tourism is responsible because it allows communities in a developing country to achieve their own community goals while at the same time giving visitors an opportunity to enjoy a very special part of the world," Marian Hobbs said. "Bouma is a very positive example of how New Zealand can help developing Pacific countries eliminate poverty."

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