Con­ser­va­tion board calls for user pays

Mil­ford strug­gles to cope with record num­ber of in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers

Central Otago Mirror - - NEWS - By DAVE NI­COLL

South­land Con­ser­va­tion Board mem­bers and DOC staff are call­ing for a user pays model with record num­bers of peo­ple vis­it­ing Mil­ford Sound.

The spot is drawing vis­i­tors by the thou­sands and putting pres­sure on in­fra­struc­ture.

DOC Fiord­land part­ner­ships ranger Jessie Haa­nen said num­bers ob­tained from the Mil­ford Devel­op­ment Author­ity (MDA) in­di­cated that about 530,000 peo­ple vis­ited Mil­ford in the fi­nan­cial year end­ing March 31 last year.

There were a lot of is­sues in terms of vis­i­tor park­ing, and DOC had to use vol­un­teers to help vis­i­tors to park.

The author­ity had 199 car parks in Mil­ford and at its peak cars reached 660 a day in Fe­bru­ary, she said.

‘‘Usu­ally it was like that for 10 days, this year it went on for 21⁄ months.’’

There was a real change in how vis­i­tors were ar­riv­ing in Mil­ford, she said.

South­ern South Is­land direc­tor of con­ser­va­tion ser­vices Alan Munn said the num­ber of buses had dropped from 100 to 40 or 50 but the num­ber of vis­i­tors had gone up.

‘‘So it’s the in­crease in those free, in­de­pen­dent trav­ellers that have changed.’’

Tourism New Zealand pro­moted the free in­de­pen­dent trav­eller ex­pe­ri­ence so peo­ple now hired a car and ex­pected to be able to go on that jour­ney and stop where they liked, he said.

DOC land, an area from when the flood pro­tec­tion was con­structed near Deep Wa­ter Basin road, would be turned into a car park, Haa­nen said.

‘‘We’re go­ing to en­able change to MDA’s con­ces­sion to re­move the rocks that we have got there to stop vans park­ing there, and use that as an over­flow car park for the next cou­ple of years.’’

DOC would con­tinue to work with­MDAand Tran­sit New Zealand to try and re­solve is­sues, she said.

Next year DOC would con­tinue to use vol­un­teers, she said.

‘‘MDA are go­ing to con­trib­ute $1000 a month to help pay for those vol­un­teers.’’

There were nights dur­ing the tourist sea­son where at the popular camp­ing sites Cas­cade Creek and Lake Gunn there were more than 300 peo­ple stay­ing the night, Munn said.

There were all sorts of is­sues around toi­lets and waste man­age­ment, he said.

Tourism New Zealand pre­dicted a 4 per cent in­crease year-on-year in tourism, Munn said.

Re­search had in­di­cated that about one in three peo­ple who turned up in New Zealand vis­ited Mil­ford, he said.

New Zealand needed to look at the op­por­tu­ni­ties for user pays, given that DOC was un­der some fi­nan­cial con­straint, he said.

Board mem­ber Lloyd Esler said the gov­ern­ment should recog­nise that it should put in money be­cause it would get to the point ‘‘where it’s not go­ing to be a plea­sur­able ex­pe­ri­ence for th­ese peo­ple’’.

Board mem­ber John Twid­dle said ‘‘The whole ex­pe­ri­ence needs to be man­aged, not just at Mil­ford but on the way to Mil­ford, too.’’

The num­ber of buses to Mil­ford have changed, but the num­ber of vis­i­tors have gone up.

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