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