Sustained Effort

May 9th, 2022

How small kiwi tourism businesses are making big steps towards sustainability.

All over the world businesses and industries are recognising the need to evolve, and develop more sustainable ways of operating. It’s a process that can involve difficult choices, but also sometimes great innovations.

For New Zealand tourism, the varied nature of the individual enterprises involved means that the sustainability challenges are equally diverse. From tour operators to accommodation providers to extreme-sport facilities, tourism encompasses a range of businesses that interact with the natural taiao (or environment) in unique ways. Fortunately in Aotearoa, tourism operators are to a large extent rising to the challenge and working in many ways to achieve sustainability.

I orea te tuatara ka puta ki waho
A problem is solved by continuing to find solutions

Māori proverb

At Kapiti Island Nature Tours the first step has been to minimise energy and water consumption by cutting down on the number of power outlets and faucets available for use. It’s a simple technique that they’ve found is received positively by their customers.

For other businesses like Waimangu Volcanic Valley, a collection of simple steps are making the difference. Worm farms, pig buckets, solar panels and recycling bins have all been instituted, and they are working to make positive changes throughout their supply chain.

When your business is boat-based, your vessel is where you look to make a difference. Barefoot Sailing Adventures in Paihia are committed to choosing the best environmentally sustainable and responsible practices when it comes to maintenance of their vessel and supporting local businesses when sourcing repair and supply services.

Sometimes sustainability is about engaging with the wider community to create efficiencies. Carino Wildlife Cruises in the Bay of Islands share data collected from their wildlife encounters with the Department of Conservation and local universities and research agencies. Guests are even involved in the data collection; which is helping to build a better picture of the marine environment and inform more successful management policies.

Sudima Hotels in Christchurch City, Christchurch Airport and Kaikōura, look to partner with suppliers who can help increase tin Christchurch City, Christchurch Airport and Kaikōura, partner with suppliers who can help increase their positive environmental and social impact. They’ve implemented multiple initiatives that include: on-site beehives to produce their own honey, refillable pump bottles for bathroom amenities, and water-saving solutions for laundry.

Carbon offsetting is also being achieved through native planting. For Ziptrek Ecotours in Queenstown, this has resulted in being recognised as the region’s first certified zero-carbon business. They offset 1.5 kgs per person per tour by working to restore the local native ngahere.

For Owen River Lodge in Nelson, planting was a chance to go a step further. Across the 2021 financial year they measured and then offset 120% of their carbon footprint; to become the first carbon positive fishing lodge in the world. Their involvement is with the Kānuka Uruwhenua Native Regeneration Project in Golden Bay. The project covers 76.4 hectares of naturally-regenerating indigenous forest that sequesters 896 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

With so many operators now engaging meaningfully with sustainability practices and taking up the kaitiakitanga (or guardianship) of Aotearoa, the onus falls on us. As travellers we can – and should – be more discriminating in our tourism choices and show our support for enterprises that are moving the industry towards true toitūtanga (sustainability).

Imagery: Sophie Turner