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Kiwis take to the outdoors

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New Zealanders took to the outdoors in large numbers during peak summer, according to new data released by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

However, the increase in domestic tourism has not prevented a huge decline in activity across the board due to the impact of Covid-19 and subsequent lack of foreign tourists.

DOC’s summer 2020/21 visitor insights report shows the impact of Covid 19 related border closures—with tens of thousands of New Zealanders exploring the natural areas DOC manages this summer, but many iconic visitor sites left unusually quiet.

DOC booking data shows 75 per cent more New Zealanders undertook a Great Walk over the summer period) compared to last year. Around 108,000 people camped at bookable DOC campsites, 48,000 people experienced a Great Walk and 30,000 people stayed at other bookable huts across New Zealand.

“It’s been a summer like no other,” says DOC’s strategy and insights manager Tim Bamford.

“Ongoing border closures and Covid-19 alert level changes continue to impact visitor patterns across Aotearoa, but it’s awesome to see more Kiwis than ever have been enjoying their great outdoors this year, especially during holiday periods and weekends.

“It’s even more pleasing to see indications people have really loved holidaying in nature, often reconnecting with conservation areas special to them.” 

However, the increase in New Zealand visitor numbers has not been enough to prevent a large decline in activity in many places compared to summer last year. Visitor activity data taken between November, 1 2020 and January, 31 2021 shows popular places that have been significantly quieter include: Milford Sound/Piopiotahi down 78 per cent; Franz Josef Glacier, down 72 per cent; and Tongariro Alpine Crossing, down 72 per cent, compared to the same period last year.

This decline in visitors has had a heavy impact on communities in those areas, says Tim Bamford.

“DOC’s aim this summer was to support and encourage people to get out into the regions, and for people to really take advantage of the health and wellbeing benefits taking time out in nature can provide,” he states.

“Many New Zealanders are restricted by when and how far they can travel. They also have considerations such as work, school and where they can take pets. It’s tough, but not unexpected, to see more remote places have been impacted by border closures.

“At the same time places close to urban populations have either been stable or had increased use. Coastal environments were the most visited outdoor environment over summer and a lot of bookable DOC huts were at, or near full, capacity over summer weekends.”

Uretiti Beach Campsite in Northland, was the most visited DOC campground in New Zealand over summer. Pinnacles Hut in Coromandel was the most visited non-Great Walk hut in New Zealand this summer, with close to 5,000 people staying there.

With quarantine-free travel with Australia now in place, Tim is reminding everyone to be prepared if venturing into the great outdoors this winter.

“With good preparation and through selecting appropriate activities, there are still plenty of opportunities to get into nature over the colder months. DOC’s seasonal web page includes options and safety information.”

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