Conservation board calls for user pays
Milford struggles to cope with record number of independent travellers
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.