Conservation 'cornerstone' of tourism

Real Journeys marketing manager Ajit Pilo (left)  and Andrew Smart, from Doc Te Anau, release a...
Real Journeys marketing manager Ajit Pilo (left) and Andrew Smart, from Doc Te Anau, release a whio to its new home near the Routeburn Track this year. Photo supplied.

Southern tourism operator Real Journeys won a Conservation Week Award for protecting the kakapo and whio (blue duck) and also ridding the Walter Peak area of wilding pines and restoring land. Commercial director Tony McQuilkin talks to Stacey Bryant.


What is it about conservation work that got your company interested and continues to interest it?

In the 61 years that Real Journeys has been operating, conservation work has always interested us.

Real Journeys founder Les Hutchins made the now famous quote (back in 1998): ''Today I am more convinced than ever before that conservation is the real cornerstone of New Zealand's tourism industry. Tourism and conservation need each other for mutual survival and the right direction to go is to take more notice of conservation issues, not less.''

How do these projects benefit conservation?

The Walter Peak Land Restoration Project is preventing the spread of wilding pines.

If we left it we would be facing a similar challenge over all the flanks of Walter Peak and Cecil Peak, and it would be almost impossible to arrest the spread at that stage.

Obviously, helping boost New Zealand's rare native birds like the kakapo and whio also benefits conservation.

What does Real Journeys get out of its work in conservation - how does it fit in?

Real Journeys has a commitment to conservation and one of our guiding principles is to provide our visitors with an authentic New Zealand experience.

Pines aren't part of the Central Otago High Country experience.

Clearly, we have an interest in maintaining the natural heritage that so many of our visitors travel a long way to see.

Helping the kakapo and whio is an important part of that. Conservation is part of who we are as a company.

What would Real Journeys like to do in the future with conservation?

This year, we launched two major new initiatives which benefited conservation.

One provided an entire Doubtful Sound Overnight Cruise as a fundraiser to help yellow-eyed penguins, and the Conservation Discovery Cruise raised money for the Dusky Sound conservation and restoration programme.

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