Increased tourism could have serious environmental impact

Wānaka Airport and Roys peak get honorable mentions in Commissioner's report.

The Wānaka airport issue once again rears its head, this time in a governmental report investigating environmental degradation caused by tourism. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, recently released a report examining the environmental impacts of both present and future tourism for New Zealand. The report, entitled “Pristine, popular… imperilled?” outlined several concerns, with tourist numbers  already straining destinations like Wānaka and set to rise, which could erode “the sense of isolation, tranquillity and access to nature that many overseas tourists seek when visiting New Zealand” according to Upton. 

The controversial Wānaka airport debate made mention in the report as an example of increased tourism pressure and growth. International visitor numbers are approaching 4 million and could rise to 10–13 million annually by 2050. Despite the economic benefits of tourism, the report says “one only has to look at the extent to which the landscapes surrounding gateway towns like Queenstown or Wānaka have been modified to grasp the potential magnitude of the trade-off involved.” 

Michael Ross, chair of the Wānaka Stakeholders Group, issued a statement saying: “Given that the planned airport expansion serves primarily to facilitate the projected millions of increased visitor numbers to the region, the commissioner’s report is both timely and on topic.” Ross noted that any decision relating to the airport should take into consideration the environmental impacts that could have “serious and irreversible impacts” on the area. 

A second report offering recommendations to the concerns raised by this report can be expected in the future. 


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