PFW Winter News Roundup

13 September

Do we need to limit the number of tourists coming to Aotearoa?

“Crowded towns, clogged roads, dangerous drivers, filthy freedom campers, congested trails: the rapid growth in tourism is causing concerns throughout New Zealand, and headaches for politicians and public alike.” In a recent North & South article Mike White investigates the growing backlash in New Zealand communities against the impacts of what they perceive as ‘overtourism’ on the health of our environment and New Zealanders’ ability to enjoy their own country.

Around the world, popular tourism destination communities are looking for ways to both protect their social as well as natural environments, while still hanging onto the economic benefits of tourism – Boracay, a tiny island in the Philippines, closed for six months to help it recover from the two million tourists it was getting each year; Maya Bay in Thailand, which featured in the movie The Beach, has been closed till 2021 because of environmental destruction; and recently Peru has further limited numbers to the wonderful Machu Picchu, not only to protect habitat for wild chinchillas, but to ensure a wonderful visitor experience. Closer to home, the Mermaid Pools near Northland’s Matapōuri Bay were closed indefinitely in April due to environmental damage from rubbish and human waste, and Queenstown’s council is seeking to introduce a 5% levy on accommodation to help address increases in waste management costs due to tourism.

Here on Waiheke, as we relish the spring flowers, empty beaches and burgeoning numbers of native birds, many of us are not looking forward to the summer influx of visitors, or the resulting mayhem at Matiatia and the Downtown Ferry Terminal.

On the plus side, the local community is humming with conservation, environmental protection and sustainability initiatives, mostly carried out by volunteers.  An impressive and by-no-means exhaustive list includes:

·      A number of successful events promoting Plastic Free July

·      A small forest of pohutukawa planted in little Palm Beach’s Mawhitipana Valley

·      Extinction Rebellion Waiheke’s drive to minimise plastic waste in supermarkets

·      Conversion of waste into resources  to improve social, environmental and local economic outcomes, for which Kai Conscious Café won an award at the national Zero Waste Awards 2019

·      A novel ShareWaste scheme managed by Waiheke Resources Trust

·      Save Kennedy Point’s anti-marina petition of more than 9000 signatures presented at Parliament

·      Waiheke Collective’s marine conservation sub-group efforts to save the Gulf

·      Local knitting enthusiasts produce much-needed woollies for premature babies

·      Predator controller traps 96 stoats

·      Te Huruhi students plant spinifex to prevent erosion at Palm Beach

These are just the projects that have made it into the local news recently. Others continue their work quietly in the background, sustaining the community, the environment and the Waiheke spirit: the Volunteer Fire Brigade, Forest and Bird (Hauraki Gulf Branch), Native Bird Rescue, Meals on Wheels and many more.

You can find these and other Waiheke organisations right here on our ‘MAD’ (Make a Difference) website, which has been set up to help island locals who want to get more involved in the many fun activities that keep our community strong. To list your organisation , or find an organisation you’d like to engage with, click here and go MAD about Waiheke!

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Mid-winter update

After 18 ferry cancellations during May, Waihekeans’ escalating frustrations with the Fullers ferry services hit the mainstream media. In response Fullers called a public meeting on Sunday 9 June, chaired by former Waitakere mayor Sir Bob Harvey. Morra Hall was packed to capacity for this meeting, with more than 100 people forced to listen from outside. The numbers attending and their very vocal protests made it clear that ferry users are united in their demands for reliability and accountability from Fullers.

At a private meeting on 18 June, Fullers CEO Mike Horne said Fullers is seeking independent financial advice on the cost to Auckland of subsidising Waiheke services. Auckland Councillor Chris Darby, who was at this meeting, told the Gulf News that “…Fullers were fiercely defending their corner – suggesting that things are rosy and perfect with 99 per cent efficiency.”

Nevertheless, the discussion continues, with Auckland Mayor Phil Goff asking for Fullers’ exemption from the Public Transport Operating Model (POTM) to be revoked. Meanwhile local board chairperson Cath Handley is urging ferry users to keep up the momentum to convince the Minister of Transport to waive this exemption. Auckland Central MP Nikki Kaye is also asking for heightened urgency on improving the ferry services. Watch this space…

In other news, volunteers came together to plant 650 trees at Te Matuku wetland in early May. Waiheke students and environmentalists joined forces for the second nationwide climate action strike on 24 May. Plastic Free July got off to a roaring start with a Market Day on 30 June, leading into a series of events organised by Waiheke Resources trust, Island Waste Collective and Plastic Free Pantry. Electric Island organisers have sourced four courtesy electric vehicles (EVs) for locals to trial for three months, each user driving for a week at a time free of charge. And three cheers for the local board, whose efforts to plan a facelift for Little Oneroa are finally coming to fruition.

In the ‘not so good’ news: a recent University of Auckland-led study suggests that our efforts to rid the island of predators are not enough to save our seabirds. Forest and Bird is also calling on Auckland Council to implement border controls to stop kauri dieback disease (KDD) reaching the Island, particularly via soil on vehicles that have been driven in infected areas of Auckland.

And  what’s happening at Project Forever Waiheke? We recently published the results of a visitor satisfaction survey conducted with 441 visitors to the island on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during April and May. The results were on the whole very positive, with the main complaint being how expensive it is, both to come to the island and to enjoy its attractions.

Finally, to celebrate National Volunteer Week (16-22 June), we launched our ‘MAD about Waiheke’ campaign (Make A Difference)* to promote community engagement and recruit volunteers for worthy causes. If you want to list your organisation, or find an organisation you’d like to volunteer for, it’s all right here on our website: Get MAD about Waiheke!

*Special thanks to Paul and Paola Dashwood for developing the MAD concept.

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The tourism tidal wave - who does Auckland want?

The tourism tidal wave - who does Auckland want?

Too many international visitors fly or cruise into Auckland – then leave straight away for the world-famous destinations to the south like Rotorua and Queenstown. Now, tourism leaders are investigating how we can tell Auckland's story better.

In the long queue for taxis, Susie and Marcus Wright wait patiently with their 14-year-old son, Matthew. The French-English family have just disembarked a cruise liner and are heading straight to the rental car depot, to get the hell out of Dodge.

They'll be gone by lunchtime, halfway to Hobbiton. Auckland has nothing for them. "There's the tower – but we've looked at so many towers, Eiffel tower, CN Tower, Burj Khalifa," says Susie, wearily. "There gets a point you get panoramic view fatigue. Auckland didn't shout anything special; it offers what other cities a similar size offer."

Project Forever Waiheke invites you to read another installment from New Zealand Herald’s Tourism Tidal Wave series.

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Critique of Government's 'sustainable' tourism strategy

Critique of Government's 'sustainable' tourism strategy

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage and Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis launched the New Zealand Aotearoa Government Tourism Strategy on Thursday, which they say delivers "exceptional visitor experiences" while not increasing pressure on the environment. However, environmentalists say it hasn't addressed a major issue.

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New Zealand tourism strategy addresses pressure of increased visitor numbers

New Zealand tourism strategy addresses pressure of increased visitor numbers

The Government's new tourism strategy aims to manage visitor growth better and make sure more New Zealanders share the benefits.

Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis and Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage launched the new strategy at the Trenz tourism trade show in Rotorua on Thursday, promising improved planning and more sustainable funding to tackle the pressure of increased visitor numbers.

Davis said the Government will take a more active role in tourism, so it continued to support national and regional economies, and create jobs.

"We must ensure that we're set up to continue enjoying these benefits, while better managing the challenges that growth can bring."

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PFW News

The Waiheke community responded to the tragedy in Christchurch on 15 March with fundraising efforts, flowers, poetry and messages of love and sympathy, joining the rest of Aotearoa New Zealand and others around the world in an outpouring of grief and outrage. Meanwhile the worldwide student strike for action on climate change, which took place in New Zealand at almost the same time as the massacre, was largely ignored by the mainstream media. Not, however, by the Gulf News, which celebrated the turnout by Waiheke students, as well as Lindsay Jeff’s marathon bike ride from Auckland to Wellington in support of New Zealand’s Zero Carbon Bill.

In early April the Local Board and several Waiheke residents presented submissions to planning commissioners opposing proposed changes to the Downtown Ferry Basin , one of which is to enable even larger cruise ships to dock in Central Auckland. (At the end of April, Auckland had hosted 39 cruise ships, a 20% increase on the previous season.) The wharf extension has since been approved despite strong opposition.

On a more positive note, the Waiheke Transport Forum has appointed Don McKenzie as their new accessibility representative. Hopefully the Waiheke Special Needs Group’s call for access mats to popular beaches will be similarly addressed.

Sustainable tourism to the fore: DOC is nearing a decision to develop Stony Batter as a cultural tourism, star-gazing and education destination.

Good news also that the adventure company EcoZip, in partnership with the Waiheke Resources Trust, is planning to double the number of native trees they plant each year.

The increasing numbers of young South Americans working in our vineyards, restaurants and cafés is a boon to our tourist industry. Recent arrival Manuela Irianni’s response to the island and its community is a heart-warming story.

Less palatable to locals is the news that the Local Board’s bid to ban freedom camping anywhere on the island’s public land is taking longer to achieve than first thought. And the High Court has ruled out the Kennedy Point marina appeal option.

Looking at the big picture, planning for Waiheke’s next 30 years is underway. But with some gaps that need to be addressed, public consultation on a draft area plan for Waiheke will not take place until mid-year. One reason for the delay is that many Auckland Council officers have been working on plans to introduce compulsory water reticulation in the island’s business areas, says Ward Councillor Mike Lee. “The previously hidden agenda has been revealed and it should be seriously alarming to all Waihekeans.”

Finally, a round of applause to the fundraising efforts of Barry Fenton and Dan Harrop, in a bid to keep Chris Bailey’s Te Werowero sculpture permanently at Matiatia. The artwork both welcomes and challenges visitors to respect the island’s culture, whāhi tapu and fragile environment, says Chris. A truly welcome addition to Waiheke’s gateway!

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From 2.6 to over 10 million international tourists per year: Is Auckland ready to talk overtourism?

From 2.6 to over 10 million international tourists per year: Is Auckland ready to talk overtourism?

The New Zealand Herald is investigating potential overtourism in Auckland, as destinations around the globe are reeling with massive numbers of people descending upon cities, beaches, historical sites, natural reserves, etc. Overtourism in Auckland would also affect Waiheke; PFW invites you to read the Herald’s exploration of this topic through its series of articles.

Forget 20/20 vision, Auckland needs to look ahead to 2021. In the first of a four-part series on the future of Auckland's tourism, The New Zealand Herald investigates how the city is working to get its infrastructure ready for APEC and the America's Cup.

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Tourism operators face overtourism dilemma: send customers to busy destinations or recommend alternatives?

Tourism operators face overtourism dilemma: send customers to busy destinations or recommend alternatives?

While everyone has heard horror stories of overcrowded destinations, hostile locals, and lining up for hours for a glimpse of a tourist attraction, travel advisors are still faced with requests to visit the world’s most popular places. They have a dilemma: Do they make the booking or risk losing the business by recommending alternatives?

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Tourism, Trade and the WTO: Affirming the importance of enhanced global cooperation on trade & tourism, and encouraging greater participation of the tourism sector in trade policy

Tourism, Trade and the WTO: Affirming the importance of enhanced global cooperation on trade & tourism, and encouraging greater participation of the tourism sector in trade policy

As the third-largest sector in international trade, accounting for 10.4% of global gross domestic product (GDP) and supporting 313 million jobs worldwide, the tourism sector is making strong contributions towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

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