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New Agreement between DoC and Tourism Industry

5 August 2008

New Agreement between Department of Conservation and Tourism Industry

“The Department of Conservation and the tourism industry have agreed on a new process to manage tourism concessions on conservation land, where the visitor activities need to be restricted, and more applicants seek a concession than opportunities available,” Department of Conservation’s Director General Al Morrison said today.

“This agreement with the tourism industry is all about protecting the quality of the public’s conservation land, and the provision of quality visitor services and experiences at some of our most significant natural sites,” Al Morrison said.

He was one of the signatories to an Agreement signed between the Tourism Industry Association (TIA), the Ministry of Tourism and the Department at the annual Tourism Industry Conference in Christchurch.

The agreement is over a new process to manage tourism related Limited Supply Concessions, which are concessions where limits need to apply to visitor activities at particular sites. (A concession is the authorisation to carry out commercial activities on conservation land.)

Providing certain conditions are met, the agreement offers the existing concessionaire another 15 to 20 year operating timeframe. At the end of this period, an open tender process will be run, with criteria which give a weighting to the performance of the existing concessionaire. If a new opportunity is identified then there will be an open tender process to find the best concessionaire as soon as possible.

“I want to emphasise that increasing visitor appreciation of conservation land and the development of tourism generally, means we have to change our approach and under this new regime, the public interest will be better protected because there will be:

• a clear agreement between the parties as to the need to set limits on activities at places of significance, and

• much greater emphasis on quality and monitoring than there ever has been before. In a real sense it will be a more managed industry, and better monitored. There will be rigorous five year reviews of the concession, and the operators will have to get Qualmark Accreditation or equivalent. DOC’s emphasis can partially shift from administration to more active management.

“By working in a long term relationship it gives the industry a real incentive to focus on quality conservation and recreation outcomes and have some surety of investment to do so.

“It doesn’t infringe or change the rights of New Zealanders to enjoy their public land, as these rights remain unimpeded, but it should mean that pressure points are better managed for the benefit of all. The vast majority of these concessions would have been renewed over time anyway and it doesn’t mean a whole lot of new structures will emerge on conservation land,” Al Morrison said.

The Agreement was signed by TIA Chief Executive Tim Cossar, who said that his association has treated this issue as a top priority in order to achieve fair and reasonable treatment for the many members who take visitors into national parks and reserves.

“This agreement will mean operators have the certainty they need to invest in their businesses, which will also benefit the wider tourism industry. Concessionaires will be recognised for doing a good job and will be incentivised to protect the environment they operate in and offer world-class visitor experiences,” Mr Cossar said.

“I am thrilled with an outcome that is not only good for tourism businesses, but also good for the environment on which our industry depends, this approach is entirely consistent with the Tourism Strategy 2015,” said Ray Salter, Ministry of Tourism General Manager.

“Providing certainty to high quality operators in areas of limited supply through long term concessions is a real milestone for tourism on conservation land. This is an example of government working hand in hand with industry,” Mr Salter said.


ENDS


Additional background information

What is happening?

The Department of Conservation, the Ministry of Tourism and the Tourism Industry Association have signed an Agreement to introduce a new process for the allocation of limited concessions on public conservation land.

The signing of the Agreement is a significant milestone for DOC and TIA who have been working together to determine a new concessions process for limited supply concessions. The Agreement allows for both the protection of conservation lands and the provision of quality visitor services and experiences at some of New Zealand’s most significant natural sites.

Why is it happening?

The parties felt there was a need for a national framework to manage limited supply concessions consistently throughout the country. This recognised the industry’s need for a sense of surety as to the rules regarding their concessions and DOC’s need to ensure quality and high standards of performance from its concessionaires. Increasing pressure of activities at certain sites also means that restraint is necessary and this process needs to be properly managed.

Who will be affected by the changes to Limited Supply Concessions?

Any parties who currently have limited supply concessions on public conservation land or any parties who are seeking to gain concessions on public conservation land where limited opportunities exist.

Will this affect any Treaty of Waitangi applications from iwi for Crown Estate land?

No, the memorandum is about improving DOC’s systems and processes for the management of limited supply concessions on public conservation land. It is not expected to have any impact on land ownership claims relating to public conservation land.

When will the new limited supply concessions process be introduced? How will the transition process work?

The new process will be phased in as current limited supply concessions come up for renewal. Concessionaires will be asked to participate in a Preferential Right to Apply (PRA) process. The incumbent concessionaires must meet the necessary qualifying criteria to be eligible for a PRA for a concession reissue.

What are the qualifying criteria for a Preferential Right to Apply (PRA) process?

To be offered a PRA for a concession reissue, the incumbent concessionaire must meet the following qualifying criteria:

Qualifying criteria:
• Compliance with all previous concession conditions
• Compliance with all regulatory requirements
• No successful convictions or infringement actions taken against the incumbent under the Conservation and associated Acts, and
• Qualmark Accreditation or equivalent.

There will be a two year notice period from the announcement of this process to allow concessionaires whose concessions are expiring within the next two years to attain Qualmark endorsement

If required the incumbent concessionaire’s current concession will be extended to provide the two year period.

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