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New Zealanders need to learn more about caring for the envir

New Zealanders need to learn more about caring for the environment

When New Zealand holidaymakers head to the hills and beaches, many do not really know how to care for the environment, a University of Canterbury (UC) researcher says.

UC researcher Chris North says his studies show that people generally value natural places and consider them precious, from local parks and beaches to remote wilderness areas. But he says there is a chasm between values and people’s skills and knowledge.

``When the New Zealand and overseas tourist travelling season peaks, we hear or read of environmental impacts on a weekly basis. Impacts include fires that destroy forests and wetlands, newly introduced invasive species and diseases, toilet waste, rubbish, desecration of tapu sites and harm to native animals or farm animals.

``While increased coverage may result in us becoming more sensitised to environmental issues, the underlying issue remains - we are generally not knowledgeable and skilful in how we minimise impacts in the outdoors.

``Increased urbanisation means we tend not to spend much time outdoors away from toilets and rubbish bins. Footpaths and houses mean we are always on durable surfaces so we don’t have to watch where we place our feet. Water comes from taps and toilet waste gets flushed away.

``Our connections to the environment are disguised through all this infrastructure and technology. When we hit the hills or the beaches, we don’t know how to behave or what is appropriate.’’

New Zealanders often considered that impacts generally resulted from international tourists, he says. However, evidence shows that impacts on the Routeburn track (where almost all walkers are international tourists) are similar to Waikaremoana, where most walkers are New Zealanders.

North says he supports the views of The Leave No Trace movement which is seeking to protect the New Zealand outdoors.

``Leave No Trace offers training to support a set of principles and its effectiveness is supported by research. Leave No Trace offers resources and training that support the development of principles that guide our behaviour in the outdoors.

``It is not about a set of rules, but rather understanding the consequences of our behaviour and choosing the best thing to do given the ecological and cultural context. People come and go but the land endures.

``They believe the only solution is to teach people – New Zealanders and visitors to our shores – about minimum impact skills, how far to camp from water sources, where to pitch a tent, how to build a minimum impact fire or if one should be built in the first place.’’

``What if we left no trace? What if our rivers, beaches and lakes were clean? It only takes everyone to consider a bit, act with care and think of the future.’’

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