Developing Responsible Manuhiri

July 13, 2022, 2:21 p.m.

Northland is now preparing to manaaki an increase in visitors as borders open and COVID-19 restrictions ease. A workshop by Northland Inc, which focussed on developing sustainability in tourism, was held recently in Waitangi to prepare the tourism industry. Tourism operators and associations came together to discuss how to welcome visitors with more sustainable practices in place to lessen the impact environmentally and economically. 

'Creating Responsible Visitors' was the ingoa of the workshop and the host, Waitangi Treaty Grounds, was the latest recipient of the Northland Business Excellence Award 2022. They also won the ServiceIQ Visitor Experience Award in 2017, so the experience of the workshop began right at the front entrance as attendees took in the cultural environment of an operator who hosts many guests in a single day.

Dr. David Ermen (Managing Director of Destination Capacity) facilitated the three hour workshop and covered a range of topics including how to manage waste and how to help visitors do the same. Community support and collaboration was discussed, which created networking opportunities and potential ways to share suppliers and resources. The interactive workshop also covered how your business could contribute toward business and community eco-systems to create harmony and rebuild a highly affected tourism industry.

There were over 60 tourism operators in attendance from as far south as Nelson, to the Wild Forest Eco Lodge in Dargaville and as far north as Ngapae Holiday Park in Waipapakauri. All of the attendees shared their business experiences of navigating the effects of COVID-19 over the past two years. Keryn Pivac (Operations Manager of Ngapae Holiday Park) spoke to Te Hiku Radio about her experience operating a tourism business during the pandemic;

"While there is a fire in Kaimaumau, and that isn't a good situation for the iwi and community, it means that the fire fighters who have travelled from all around Aotearoa to battle the fire, are staying with us. Because of the pandemic, we have the space to host over 100 fire crew and would not have been able to if we weren't going through Level 4 COVID-19 restrictions. So being able to adjust to this situation and create a positive has helped us at this time, whilst helping support the community" said Pivac.

Traveller behaviours were impacted due to government restrictions and border closures that were put in place to prevent community illness from spreading.

For Ngapae Holiday Park, they were able to create a positive impact for those who were displaced for different reasons during this time.

"Ngapae Holiday Park hosted a total of 2553 guests in one night during summer. These were short-term holiday guests. When the pandemic hit, we had nobody and so we had to adapt. We were able to house 21 guests long-term and saw them progress from some very tough situations, to employment and are now making small lifestyle changes. Really rewarding and unseen things that we are proud to have been part of. We are now open to holiday guests again" said Pivac.

According to the Holiday Parks Association New Zealand and the Accommodation Data Programme, between January and May 2021 (507,700) there was a decrease in visitors to Northland by 21% compared to 2022 (402,900). 

The next 12 months Northland Inc will be partnering with a range of organisations and people to present workshops and provide practical tools and learnings within the tourism industry in Northland.

"As the Regional Tourism Organisation, we recognise the shift in traveller attitudes and the demand for operators who are actively considering their impact on the environment around them. As we move forward to welcome international visitors back to our shores, it is important we begin to take more responsibility for our impact and move to lessen our carbon footprint" - Northland Inc.

The next workshop on environmental sustainability will be facilitated by Jane Reed from EcoSolutions. Jane will be talking about waste management, taking attendees through a waste audit and then giving ideas for signage and procurement stewardship.  

The Department of Conservation (DOC) will then take attendees through the Predator Free 2050 movement and why this is important to the future of our natural environment and the visitor industry, as well as highlighting projects in Northland that are underway. 

As Northland prepares to manaaki guests from around the world again, townships such as Ahipara, Kaitaia and Awanui have used their down time to work collectively to create a memorable and meaningful welcome through artistic gateway installments that represent historical people, places or events.

The timing couldn't be any better as each newly revitalised township is unveiled and network opportunities like these become available. Workshops, hui and wānanga should be attended so that the community, as a collective, can discuss and action ideas to lessen the carbon footprint, whilst teaching manuhiri how to do the same.



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