South Island High Country Project

Our South Island High Country Project looked at what’s working, what’s not, where the gaps are and what people’s dreams are for public access in 50 or 100 years’ time. We met with landholders, recreationalists, tourism operators and central and local government staff in the Mackenzie Country, Queenstown Lakes and Waitaki districts.

South Island High Country Access Report 2018

Tourist numbers are rapidly increasing throughout New Zealand, but particularly in the central southern South Island in the Mackenzie, Queenstown Lakes, Waitaki and Central Otago districts.

These increasing numbers, combined with population growth in the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago districts, are bringing unique pressures to the people who live, work and play in these areas, and to the central and local government agencies that support them.

Through our work on the ground helping to create new access and resolving access disputes, the Commission began to hear concerning messages about the potential that some landholders could withdraw access to private land due to problems and pressures created by these increasing numbers, and that there was a real risk of local communities withdrawing the social license for tourism.

The Commission decided to investigate the experiences of the people who live, work and play in these regions. We produced a report as the first step, based on 36 hours of meetings with 55 people.

The people interviewed, whose thoughts, hopes and fears are noted throughout the report, range from newcomers to the area to long-time locals. They include:

  • landholders and farmers;
  • central and local government staff;
  • recreationalists;
  • community groups building, maintaining and using tracks and trails;
  • tourism operators and agencies, and others.

Following the report’s release, we conducted a round of public consultation, with more than 300 submissions from individuals and organisations. Overwhelmingly, the key stakeholders supported the major findings of the report, and committed to working together to address the issues and embrace the opportunities identified.

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Photo credit: Bernard Spragg NZ. at Flickr