Project planned to prevent tourism destroying Waiheke Island

Original article published on Stuff. By Rose Davis. Last updated 14:09, December 4 2017

Photo: Rose Davis/STUFF

Photo: Rose Davis/STUFF

With more than a million visitors coming to Waiheke Island a year, it's possible to get too much of a good thing.

That's why a group of residents plans to start a project monitoring the impacts of tourism.

Island residents Peter Wills and Pam Oliver are members of a group trying to set up a United Nations World Tourism Organisation International Network of Sustainable Tourism project on Waiheke.

Peter Wills presents the plan for a sustainable tourism project to Waiheke Local Board. Photo: Rose Davis/STUFF

Peter Wills presents the plan for a sustainable tourism project to Waiheke Local Board. Photo: Rose Davis/STUFF

"Tourism affects every aspect of our lives, because we've become such a tourist destination.

"We want to develop a strategy to make sure our tourism is sustainable and not just done on a completely ad hoc basis as it is at the moment," Wills said.

Photo: Shani Williams

Photo: Shani Williams

New double decker tourist buses sparked a protest on Waiheke Island in April.

Oliver said many houses on the island are rented out as holiday accommodation, creating a shortage of affordable housing for long-term residents.

The introduction of new double decker bus tours late last year sparked residents to organise a protest march against the huge vehicles, which they claim are wrecking roads and killing the quaint spirit of the island. 

Huge queues for ferries during peak visitor season and frequently late ferries are other tourism impacts the island faces, a discussion paper from the group stated.

"Anywhere that has significant bush reserves and small, discrete communities is at risk from excessive tourism and eventually you destroy the very thing that is the essence of the attractiveness of a destination," Oliver said.

A local steering group, spanning community, tourism and environmental interests, would work alongside academics and students from the University of Otago tourism department on the project.

The goal would be to develop a strategy and provide data that can guide decision makers towards more sustainable tourism management.

The project would involve a study of Waiheke as a destination, record tourism activities and analyse positive and negative impacts of increasing visitor numbers.

Although final decisions have not yet been made, Waiheke Local Board has endorsed the proposal in principle and agreed to set aside no less than $9000 to fund the first year of the project.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development general manager destination Steve Armitage said the Auckland Council controlled organisation has already stopped actively promoting Waiheke.

"We are very aware of Waiheke Island's popularity and that it has started to put pressures on infrastructure and cause capacity challenges at certain times of the year.

"As Auckland's tourism promotion arm, we are working with the wider industry, including the likes of the Waiheke Island Tourism Forum and local board, to find ways to make the most of tourism, but in a way that we can protect and enhance our environment for future generations," Armitage said.