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NZ backs stronger management of Antarctic tourism

NZ backs stronger management of Antarctic tourism

New Zealand believes the management of Antarctic tourism needs to be strengthened to protect the continent's unique environment, Foreign Minister Phil Goff said today.

“The government is concerned about the continued expansion and diversification of Antarctic tourism, as well as safety and potential jurisdictional issues,” Mr Goff said.

"Tourism will be a key item on the agenda for next month's annual Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Madrid, and New Zealand will use the opportunity to cooperate with other countries to address these issues.

"Through the government's adoption this week of a policy statement on tourism and other non-government activities in Antarctica, we are committed to working within the Treaty system to make tourism management more effective, and to ensure it is conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.

“Antarctica is designated as a natural reserve, devoted to peace and science, under the Treaty system. However there are a number of gaps in the system’s management of tourism and other non-governmental activities. These include differing interpretations of the Environmental Protocol, and the lack of means to ensure the safety and self-sufficiency of such activities. "We are not proposing to cut the present level of tourists visiting Antarctica from New Zealand (500 people annually) but overall limits are necessary, especially when little is known about the cumulative impacts of tourism on sensitive sites and Antarctic wildlife.

"Tourist numbers have grown from 5000 to more than 15,000 in just over 10 years, and projections suggest that number could increase by a further 10,000 over the next five years.

"Most Antarctic tourism is currently ship-based, and New Zealand is particularly opposed to any expansion of permanent or semi-permanent land-based tourism. We will also not promote any further expansion of Antarctic tourism.

“New Zealand's policy is based on a precautionary approach to protecting the fragile Antarctic environment and we will work closely with other Treaty Parties to address these issues," Mr Goff said.

Attachment: New Zealand's Policy Statement

New Zealand Policy Statement on Tourism and Other Non-Governmental Activities in Antarctica

Consistent with Antarctica’s status as a natural reserve devoted to peace and science, and the obligation to minimise the environmental impacts of all activities, New Zealand will work within the Antarctic Treaty System to limit tourism and other non-governmental activities in Antarctica, and to ensure that where they do occur they are conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner by:

seeking the strengthening, and where appropriate the addition, of the means to manage effectively, and where necessary control, tourism and other non-governmental activities in Antarctica. A particular aim should be to ensure all such activities are assessed before commencement for the highest possible prevention of incident standards and have in place credible and effective response mechanism should an incident occur;

2 avoiding the promotion of any further expansion of Antarctic tourism, and supporting limits on visitation of sites where cumulative impacts are likely to lead to deterioration; 3 opposing any expansion of permanent or semi-permanent land-based tourism in Antarctica, especially in the Ross Dependency; 4 continuing to limit the extent of government support to tourist and other non-governmental expeditions to Antarctica to humanitarian assistance and basic hospitality (such as short visits to Scott base).

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