Resort most concerned over tourist boom: research

Skyline park and a view of Queenstown, New Zealand. Photo: Getty Images
Most of the concern came from the tourism hot spot of Queenstown. Photo: Getty Images

New Zealand tourism bosses say population increases in Queenstown are fueling concern about the tourist boom.

They say while locals appear to have serious concerns about the effect of the boom, tourism brings big benefits.

Tourism Industry Aotearoa (TIA) chief executive Chris Roberts said yesterday 78% of New Zealanders were happy with the level of tourism growth, and one goal for the organisation's sustainable growth target in 2025 was to raise that to 90%.

But a ''mood of the nation'' research document released last week, prepared for the TIA and Tourism New Zealand (TNZ), showed Otago felt the down side of tourism more than any other region.

Most of the concern came from the tourism hot spot of Queenstown.

The research showed 71% considered international tourism resulted in increased traffic congestion, 69% said it increased the risk of serious crashes, 50% said it increased congestion in walking areas, and 54% thought it resulted in damage to the natural environment.

Graham Budd
Graham Budd

Mr Roberts said there was clearly a need for a ''very mature conversation'' in Queenstown about what the community wanted to look like in the future.

''There's no clear picture of that at the moment.''

The Queenstown of the future would not look like Queenstown of the past.

He said tourism brought many benefits to the region, including fine restaurants in ''a what otherwise is a small rural town''.

''It has every facility a major city has because of those visitors.

''There are enormous benefits that aren't always recognised by the local residents, that they get from the visitors.''

It was the same on the West Coast, another area that showed unhappiness with tourism growth.

Giving the community a voice was important, though it was not an easy conversation to have.

The TIA would work with its businesses to tell their story better.

TNZ chief executive Stephen England-Hall said while there had been an increase in tourism, there had also been a significant population increase in New Zealand.

As well, there was an under-investment in infrastructure.

''What shows up for people is it's not what it used to be.''

People felt annoyed at how busy it was, and felt the experience of the place in which they lived was eroded.

''My view would be tourists get a pretty unfair share of the burden on that.''

Mr England-Hall said he did not have a view on how money was raised for infrastructure - including the suggested bed tax - but the Government benefited hugely from tourism money, and local government had the burden of its cost.

''Local governments have to find a way to fix the challenge.''

Destination Queenstown chief executive Graham Budd also said population growth had compounded the impression visitor growth was a serious problem.

''People don't see the effect of residential growth so much.

''We accept we've got a challenge to help our community work through that, and understand that.''

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