Author : Valentina Dinica
School/Work Place : Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Contact :
Year : 2014

For the tourism sector the government aims to “Grow the number of new business opportunities on public conservation land in order to deliver increased economic prosperity and conservation gain” (New Zealand Government, 2012: 23). In relation to this objective, the 2013 progress report to Government on the Business Growth Agenda mentions that DOC and MBIE have already implemented changes to the concession regime, which were implemented as part of two bills (2010, 2013) to amend the 1987 Conservation Act, (New Zealand Government, 2013:22). The change in the concession system is only one of several key changes implemented by DOC; but it was the first one, initiated by the Conservation Minister by means of a Concession Reviewing Process (DOC, 2010). The Conservation Chapter of the 2013 Treasury Budget Report signals that, in exchange for the new business opportunities, those obtaining DOC concessions are expected to start contributing to DOC’s work on biodiversity conservation (such as pest trapping, native flora and fauna breeding/repopulation) and the maintenance of facilities and infrastructures used by tourism across the country (Treasury, 2013: 3;12-13).

Additionally, it is also hoped that concessionaires, communities, recreational user groups, and individuals will increase their contributions through donations and volunteer work to implement DOC’s legal objectives (Treasury, 2012 and 2013; New Zealand Government, 2012). However, the Conservation Minister acknowledged that “Currently the pervading attitude by those operating on public conservation land is that they do so by ‘right’ rather than a privilege in which they are prepared to invest. Changing this attitude will require DOC to demonstrate and deliver real value in any established partnerships.” (Treasury, 2013: 11).

In this context, the research question that emerges is: what are the prospects for sustainable tourism and recreation in the National Parks of New Zealand, given the recent shifts in regulation and governance to facilitate a Conservation Economy? This research question will be addressed by considering a number of sub-questions, which emerged not only from the above introductory considerations, but also from the wider literature review:

  • What is the legal-institutional space available to the Department of Conservation to influence the sustainable development of tourism and recreation in National Parks?
  • How do the current National Park Management Plans and visitor planning framework guide the approval, management and monitoring of tourism concessions? What changes in these relationships can we see, or expect, following a shift to a Conservation Economy?
  • How does the new concession regime look like, since 2009? Do the existing and new concession contracts deliver on the promise made by the neo-liberal decision-makers - that opening up conservation lands for tourism businesses will deliver biodiversity and environmental gains in National Parks?

The paper concludes with some policy recommendations based on the preliminary findings reported in this article.

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221 Think Tank IV Sustainability in a Mature Mass-Tourism Destination: T... file 3770 Oct 13, 2013

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» Think Tank XIV Tourism Concessions in National Parks: Neo-liberal Too... file 3731 Jun 26, 2014

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