'Volume not value' as tourist glacier landings increased

The Milford Sound within Fiordland National Park (File)
The Milford Sound within Fiordland National Park (File)

The growth of tourism in New Zealand is putting pressure on the Department of Conservation (DOC) to bend its own rules a mountain club says.

The comment comes after helicopter landings on glaciers in the Fiordland National Park have been increased.

DOC intends to trial increasing glacier landings from 14 to 80 at one site near Mt Tutoko. The World Conservation Union recognises the park as one of the world's great areas of wilderness.

Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand (FMC) president Peter Wilson says the industry is being "unfair" to DOC by pressuring it to "breach the management plans which govern New Zealand's conservation".

"The great outdoors is New Zealand's heritage, it's got to be sustainably managed," he says. "The tourism industry seems to be focused on volume not value."

Mr Wilson says Fiordland National Park is managed as a "remote experience zone", which means the natural quiet should be protected. Tourism or other industries shouldn't encroach on what the land is there for, which Mr Wilson says is to protect native species and recreational opportunities.

"If you've got 80 choppers landing there all the time, all it means is a heck of a lot of noise."

DOC director of planning and permissions, Marie Long, says it needs to balance the growing demands from tourism operators and the impact landings have on other users and the environment.

"There are currently limited opportunities for such growth and DOC acknowledges more work is needed with both the tourism industry and outdoor user groups to manage this situation."

DOC will track helicopter landings in remote areas through GPS technology.

However, Mr Wilson, who says FMC does support DOC, fears this is just the tip of the iceberg and New Zealand will see more of volume over value as the tourism industry grows.

"We have to rethink our tourism strategy for this country otherwise we risk losing what makes New Zealand special."

The increase in landings at the site will be reviewed in 12 months and DOC will report to the Conservation Board, Ngāi Tahu and alpine user groups every three months on the progress of the trial.