Real Journeys seeks renewed permit

Real Journeys and Go 
Real Journeys and Go Orange general mana ger Paul Norris at the hearing yesterday. PHOTO: LAURA SMITH
A tourism giant is promising to maintain Fiordland’s wilderness despite concerns its operation could impact the environment.

Real Journeys Ltd has applied to the regional council to renew its coastal permit.

Yesterday a hearing was told it would allow it to operate the 44m Fiordland Navigator, two tender vessels and up to 30 kayaks for day trips and backcountry trip activities in Fiordland, including Doubtful Sound. The company also sought to change where it takes some backcountry trips.

Real Journeys requested an increase of backcountry trips in First Arm from 12 to 31 times each month.

However, commissioner Sharon McGarry sought clarification on a concern there could be an accumulative impact on the area’s wilderness and remoteness.

In a report for the hearing, Environment Southland consents officer George Gericke explains the proposed change would mean an over-allocation of discretionary day trips and backcountry trips within the Doubtful Sound complex under the operative Regional Coastal Plan for Southland 2013.

However, Real Journeys representatives did not feel the consented-for figures Mr Gericke used reflected the actual number of vessels.

Real Journeys general manager Paul Norris said it respected the area and worked with other operators to maintain those remoteness and wilderness values.

There had been a peak in domestic tourist numbers in the area recently and he pointed out the increase asked for might not be taken up all the time.

"I’m sure you can appreciate, it’s getting security of tenure."

While Real Journeys originally requested a consent term of 25 years, a term of 12 years was recommended.

Ms McGarry also suggested Real Journeys voluntarily add to its consent conditions that it would seek to get consent for a mooring in First Arm.

This would mean its vessels would operate in different areas, except during bad weather.

At the end of the hearing, she asked Mr Gericke if the overall effect of application, above the status quo, was positive.

He agreed.

Once all alterations and clarifications had been made the commissioner would have 15 working days to make a decision.

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