Visitors will keep coming if national park fees introduced - industry

Charging the thousands of tourists who visit New Zealand's national parks each year won't keep people away, according to Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA).

The Department of Conservation (DoC) is facing a funding shortfall, and suggests tourists could start paying for access, either through increased camping charges or a fee upon entry.

Tourism industry representative TIA agrees it could be time to start charging for some of our national parks, and says that needs to be coupled with a "serious increase" in funding.

Current legislation means DoC can't charge for access to national parks, unless visitors stay in a campground or hut overnight.

Despite being unable to charge for access to parks, DoC must pay for what visitors leave behind. In early 2016, DoC said the removal of human waste is the biggest cost to operation of the Great Walks and Milford campsites.

Chris Roberts, TIA chief executive, told The AM Show that access to national parks could be charged at different rates for visitors and locals.

He said although New Zealanders may be resistant to an increase in price, all the ways DoC could collect money need to be looked at, and that might mean an increase in prices for everyone.

"I think the whole pricing mechanism needs to be looked at. You can use a DoC campground for as little as $5 a night at the moment."

Mr Roberts said international visitors are unlikely to balk at an increase in fees for campsites or huts.

"The Department has introduced some higher camp fees this season. We haven't heard a peep out of anyone from those increases."

The issue is about controling the number of people using hot spots such as Milford Sound, Cathedral Cove and Aoraki, and something like a booking system could control numbers at peak times, he said.

But ultimately, DoC and local governments need to see a funding increase from government in order to cope with growing numbers of tourists.

"I'm hopeful we'll see two things in the Budget: we'll see some serious increases for DoC so they can get on and provide infrastructure that allows all visitors and all New Zealanders to enjoy the great outdoors

"And that $3 million a year fund - hopefully that grows into something more significant to help out local government around the country, [for] those councils who also have an infrastructure issue who are struggling to cope and provide the infrastructure that they need to."

In last year's Budget, the Government set aside $12 million for local government bodies to provide tourism infrastructure over four years.

At the time, Local Government NZ said the funding would help, but it wasn't enough.

New Zealand's national parks

There are 13 national parks in New Zealand. The first park set up in New Zealand was Tongariro National Park. The land was gifted to the Government by Ngāti Tūwharetoa in 1887.

National parks are protected areas administrated by the DoC. According to law, the preservation of an area designated a national park is "in the national interest."

  • Tongariro National Park
  • Egmont National Park
  • Whanganui National Park
  • Abel Tasman National Park
  • Kahurangi National Park
  • Nelson Lakes National Park
  • Paparoa National Park
  • Arthur's Pass National Park
  • Westland Tai Poutini National Park
  • Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park
  • Mt Aspiring National Park
  • Fiordland National Park
  • Rakiura National Park