A leading industry body has described as “a serious oversight” the government’s decision to leave tourism out of its waterways management plans.
Tourism Industry Aotearoa says a lack of freshwater management is already negatively impacting tourism, describing the situation as “unacceptable”.
“If visitors perceive New Zealand as having a poor quality of freshwater, then over time this will have a significant detrimental impact on the visitor experience – and on New Zealand’s reputation as a high-value destination,” said TIA chief executive Chris Roberts.
“Freshwater management decisions are currently being made with either no, or at best an ad-hoc, regard to the impact on tourism.”.
The Ministry for the Environment has released a draft plan to tackle New Zealand’s ongoing freshwater management issues, but it fails to debate the importance of healthy waterways to the tourism industry.
In its submission on the draft, TIA says it supports the direction and urgency of the plans, but is calling for the tourism-freshwater relationship to be given a higher priority.
“Our visitors, be they international or domestic, expect healthy waterways and associated environments,” said Roberts.
“TIA believes a lack of freshwater management has already had negative impacts on tourism’s value proposition, asserting that this is unacceptable for an industry of such importance to the economy.”
Roberts argues freshwater and healthy ecosystems are fundamental to supporting New Zealand’s iconic tourism landscapes, and how regions manage their landscape-related resources for tourism should be integral to planning and resource management decisions.
“The current lack of information makes it difficult to appropriately consider the tourism industry when making freshwater-related resourcing and planning decisions,” he said.
The TIA chief believes a contributing factor to the oversight is the lack of tourism representation in the stakeholder groups consulted during the proposal development stage.
Roberts argues TIA should have a place at the table as a long-standing member of the Land and Water Forum and vociferous advocate for better water quality.
“We recognise the importance of healthy waterways, and the vital role they play in promoting and supporting human health and healthy freshwater ecosystems,” he said.
“We mustn’t overlook the added value of those waterways to New Zealand’s biggest export industry.”