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Case Study of Eco-Tourism in New Zealand

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Tourism
Wordcount: 5342 words Published: 18th May 2020

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Eco-tourism case study Zealandia

Definition of Eco-tourism

Eco tourism is short for ecological tourism, the aims of eco tourism is to minimize the impacts of footprint on the surrounding environment and even try to return something back into the environment (New Zealand tourism guide). The international Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people” (New Zealand tourism guide, para.2). That means ecotourism should focus on the conservation and natural resources and it should bring benefits for conservation and local people. Conserve Energy Future defined ecotourism as “responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education”(Conserve Energy Future, para.3). Education means to satisfy and educate the tourists about enhancing ecological and culture sensitivity, improving the awareness and social conscience through the daily basis (Tourism Notes). According to Ecotourism Association of Australia, “ecotourism is nature-based tourism that involves education and interpretation of the natural environment and is managed to be ecologically sustainable. ‘natural environment’ includes cultural components and  ‘ecologically sustainable’ involves an appropriate return to the local community and long-term conservation of the resource” (Tourism Notes, para 10-11). According to the definitions of ecotourism, there are four characteristics I think it can help us to define an ecotourism business. First, it has to be natural-based, the business has to aim to protect environment, conserving and enhancing bio-culture diversity or bring the nature back to the public. Second, it has to emphasis on enriching tourists environmental awareness through interpretation, education to promote a good understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture in the host country.  Third, it has to be beneficial to the local people through economy growth and by respecting local cultural. Forth, it has to be low-impact on environment, aiming to minimize the adverse effects of infrastructure by using either recycled, renewable sources of energy.

History of New Zealand and its Bio-diversity

New Zealand’s biodiversity is a hotspot, meaning many species are found nowhere else on earth. The reason of the unique species is because of 80 millions isolation to evolve (Department of Conservation). This isolation brings New Zealand many endemic species of birds. New Zealand is originally from the Southern Hemisphere supercontinent Gondwana. The first rifts in this supercontinent occurred 170 million years ago when Africa detached and 40 million years later India drifted away. Atlantic Ocean opened up since then, separating Africa from South America. 80 million years ago, the landmass that was today’s New Zealand, broke away from Gondwana, splitting away from Australia and Antarctica. The pre-New Zealand rift extended northward from Tasmania through to North Queensland and south along the edge of Antarctica to Marie Byrd Land. This continental fragment Zealandia was about ten times the size of present-day New Zealand (ZEALANDIA,a). According to Wikipedia (n.d.), one estimate suggests today about 93% of the Zealandian continent remains below the sea. Several elements of Gondwana biota are present in New Zealand today: predominantly plants, such as the podocarps and the southern beeches, but also a distinctive insect fauna, New Zealand’s unusual frogs and the tuatara, as well as some of New Zealand’s birds. ZEALANDIA describes New Zealand’s flora and fauna are different from anywhere of this world due to its long isolation and uniqueness as a (near) mammal-free environment. Before human arrived, this mammalian-predator free environment had the largest predator Haast’s eagles that were hunting from the air using sight instead of smell.  Birds such as kākāpō evolved to nocturnal, motionless when sensing danger by avoiding avian predators. The moa species became to use beaks instead of teeth for browsing vegetation, wētā filled a mouse-like niche in the ecosystem, tuatara, kiwi and many other endemic species found nowhere else on the planet adapted over millions of years to survive in New Zealand’s mammal-free habitats (ZEALANDIA,a). New Zealand’s moa was the only wingless bird ever known. The giant moa, also the tallest of eleven species of moa, stand up to three metres  high (New Zealand Tourism Guide).               About 800 years ago, Polynesian settled in New Zealand, they hunt birds such as moa, huia and seals, it is believed the moa became extinct around 400 years ago. The kiwi, New Zealand’s national symbol, a nocturnal flightless bird, is now endangered. Others, such as the kakapo and takahe also became endangered (New Zealand Tourism Guide). European sailing ships took Norway rat to New Zealand resulted to clear vast tracts of land. Pests were introduced, stoats and possums are the worst. Because of the establishment of humans and mammals, native species around them faced extinction. “Since human arrival, over 50 native species of bird, frog, reptile, bat, fish, invertebrate, and plant have become extinct” (ZEALANDIA,a).


ZEALANDIA is an eco-tourism company based in Wellington. ZEALANDIA is the world’s first fully-fenced urban ecosanctuary (225 hectare), with an extraordinary 500-year vision to restore a Wellington valley’s forest and freshwater ecosystems as closely as possible to their pre-human state (ZEALANDIA,b).

ZEALANDIA Exhibition

As you walk into the ZEALANDIA Exhibition, you are surrounded by the sound of birds. A movie is showing back the time of Zealandia, the flora and fauna, human’s arrival  has changed the environment and made native species endangered. In the movie, it shows the time span from Gondawana to Zealandia, the living environment when the time Moa and Haast Eagle lived, the mammals like pigs, deers, and goats Europeans have brought to this land, they chopped down trees and burned the forest to farming and house building, they hunted birds for food. The video has showed the changing process of New Zealand ecosystem due to human behaviors.  In the exhibition hall, they also provide the teleological panels all around to play with for learning about the history and geography of New Zealand, the formation of New Zealand, the native birds sound and their habitats, NZ weather feature and ocean drift that affected NZ climate. They also display the 10 years milestone of ZEALANDIA restoration project. Tourists get to involved in the time of pre-human scenario, they can play with the birds model, simulating the living habitats of the birds. This is a learning process for tourists to get to know the uniqueness of NZ ecology through the exhibition display, models, design and movies. It has educated and raised tourists’ sensitivity to host countries’  environmental and social climates.


ZEALANDIA Sanctuary valley

ZEALANDIA sanctuary became an eco-restoration project since from 1999. ZEALANDIA called  takiwā of Kaiwharawhara before the restoration project started, it was a stream full of significant source of fish and crustacean (i.e. kōura) and the forest there gathered with abundant bird life. In the early times, Maori used this place for gathering food, this area was well known as a hunting ground (ZEALANDIA,c).

“ZEALANDIA has a vision to restore this valley to the way it was before the arrival of humans. It is a groundbreaking conservation project that has reintroduced 18 species of native wildlife back into the area, some of which were previously absent from mainland New Zealand for over 100 years” (ZEALANDIA,d). The sanctuary use 8.6 km electric barrier fencing to keep introduced mammallian predators out of the sanctuary. “Birds such as the tūī, kākā and kererū, once extremely rare in the region, are all now common sights around central Wellington. Other vulnerable native species such as tīeke, hihi, little spotted kiwi, and tuatara remain thriving safely in the sanctuary” (ZEALANDIA,d). Birds like to hatch here, ZEALANDIA is the home of New Zealand’s most rare and extraordinary wildlife. The theme is to bring the birds back to Wellington. Tourists can be fully involved themselves in the pre-human time in ZEALANDIA, they can self-guided visit or join a guided small private (2-hour) tour at anytime of the day, including day, twilight and night tour. Tourists come to experience New Zealand’s native birds home in this world-first sanctuary. There are 40 different species of native birds to seen in ZEALANDIA, like Saddleback, K ākā, Hihi, Little spotted kiwi, Pāteke, Tui, North island robin, Kererū, Little shag, Pied shag, Whitehead, Bellbird, Little black shag, Black shag, K ākāriki, Tītipounamu and reptiles, frogs and invertebrates like Tuatara, Wellington green gecko, Cook strait giant wētā, Spotted skink, Maud island frog, Forest gecko, Cave wētā, Leaf veined slug and tree wētā and native plants like Kōwhai, Ponga, Kawakawa, Mamaku, Clematis, Tree fuchsia, Kiekie, Supplejack, Harakeke, Ngaio, Rewarewa and Makomako (Zealandia,e). Conserve energy future suggests the more that tourists can know about a place and the country, the more love, admiration and appreciation will grow and inspire visitors to protect it. “Tour guides and hosts are educated on a deeper level in order to share knowledge with visitors while tourists come to appreciate the beauty of new surroundings. Adding to the visual appeal is the new perspective that comes with learning the historical and environmental significance of unfamiliar lands and buildings” (Conserve Energy Future, para.7). In the private tour, the staff/ranger interpret those species to the visitors that help to raise their understanding of conservation, history, social culture and local environment. I have interviewed a visitor, he told me in there you can see the species are well protected, treated and entertained. This is the future of Zoos and the world conservation. It is very interesting, unique, and inspirational. The feeling is amazing and you want to be part of a change and have more places like this around the world. It’s first and only ecosanctuary in the world, this word ecosanctuary is attractive regarding the lately environment matters. You feel free, animals are free and friendly, all that reasons are enough to have a look as its uniqueness. “Ecotourism attracts people who wish to interact with the environment and, in varying degrees, develop their knowledge, awareness, and appreciation of it” (Tourism Notes, para.27).



Takahē Recovery Conservation

Other than educating people around in the sanctuary, ZEALANDIA was joining Department of Conservation’s Takahē Recovery Programme in 2018. Takahē is New Zealand native flightless bird. There are two species of takahē. North Island takahē (P. mantelli) and South Island takahē. However the north island went extinvt in the lat 19th century, also the south island takahē were considered to be extinct until they were discovered in 1948 in a remote area of Fiordland by doctor Geoffrey Orbell. Because of the programme of captive breeding, translocations, stoat control and deer culling, spearheaded by the Department of Conservation (DOC), the takahē population has seen a gradual increase. The total population was close to 350 birds in 2017 (ZEALANDIA,f). In the year of 2018, DOC has announced that the number of their takahē reached to 418 and 65 juveniles produced in the year due to the Takahē Recovery Programme (Zealandia Ecosanctuary Facebook). In 2018, ZEALANDIA’s takahē  Nio and Orbell (named after Geoffrey Orbell) has hatched a chick (Zealandia Ecosanctuary Facebook). ZEALANDIA is one part of the conservation programme and the takahē help ZEALANDIA Rangers educate visitors about the role of conservation in protecting the rarest species (ZEALANDIA,f).

Education should have a far-reaching meaning that can help tourists to carry on this mindset of conservation beyond the ZEALANDIA fence, so they can nurture and enjoy the nature wherever they are, no matter in the urban city or rural areas or any communities or any countries.  At ZEALANDIA, one of the key messages for visitors to understand through guided tour is ‘Action’. ZEALANDIA is to inspire action as a result of a guided tour experience and to promote human health and well-being by helping people to connect the nature. “We connect people with our unique natural heritage, and inspire actions that transform how people live with nature in our cities, towns and beyond” (ZEALANDIA,g,para.2). They use the sanctuary experience to create an inspiring environment to see what people could lose and gain, encouraging tourists to make a change in their surroundings and build the nature in their lives. ZEALANDIA tourism product advisor Gabby Lawton answered my questions through emails saying the actions they encouraged visitors to do are joining a local wildlife protection group, campaigning and advocating for nature and green spaces in their city, supporting other sanctuaries in their country of origin, planing native trees in their garden, trapping pests in their garden or local community (NZ visitors only).

Low-impact Facilities / Zero Carbon Emission

Commuting is unavoidable in the tourism industry, it is a major part of the tourism experience. When traveling, transportation like cars, trains or airplanes add to pollution in the air.  “Ecotourism strives to minimize the adverse effects of hotels, trails, and other infrastructure by using either recycled or plentifully available local building material, renewable sources of energy, recycling and safe disposal of waste and garbage, and environmentally and culturally sensitive architectural design” (Tourism Notes, para.30). Ecotourism should aims to design, construct and operate low-impact facilities to minimise the adverse impact of ecological effects on the environment. ZEALANDIA set up their guided tours on foot, they offer a free electric shuttle service for a distance (only a ten minute drive) from the Wellington city to the sanctuary which is not a barrier to visiting. Discovering the types of low-impact transportation is one of the means to reduce carbon footprint in ecotourism industry. ZEALANDIA has used the Duffy electric boat “Ara Kawau” since from 2004. In the year of 2013, lots of Duffy classic boats had to dispose to a brokerage company because of the loss of America Cup. Around the time, Karori Wildlife Sanctuary (Now ZEALANDIA) was looking for a boat for the boar trips on the Lower Lake to enhance visitor experience. They came up with an idea to purchase the Duffy cruise instead of using the traditional diesel or petrol-powered craft that may produce noise and pollution issues. After discussion, they found the Duffy electric boat was the best choice to meet their needs and they purchased at the half price of a new boat in the end. The boat shipped to Wellington at the end of 2014 and the first launch was held in the January 2005. ZEALANDIA replaced the roof with PVC materials which is more durable than the original canvas roof that were easily crumbling over the years.  Also, they have painted the hull in white (easier to maintain than the precious dark red) and put on a new set of batteries to make it operate longer before it needs charging in the year of 2016. The boat is regularly used at the weekends and now the battery capacity allows the boat to operate for the whole weekend before needing a recharge. Typically, it involves between 20 to 30 lengths of the lake, however, on the first gold coin open weekend, the boat managed 44 lengths in one day (ZEALANDIA,2019). The introduction of the Duffy electronic boat “Ara Kawau” has definitely lowered the cost and environmental impacts on carbon emission. Other than this, this decision boosted the number of visitors and enhanced the tourism experience. ZEALANDIA (2019) describes in a sunny Sunday there are 150 to 200 people enjoying the boat during the day, and it can estimated 10,000 people have had enjoyed the cruise on Ara Kawau over the years.

Year 2019 is the fifth year in a row ZEALANDIA received CarboNZero certification. The programme is run by enviro-mark. Solutions, ZEALANDIA have successfully cut down their carbon emission in the ways they act and passed stringent testing to achieve this certification. ZEALANDIA has showed their commitment to reducing environmental impact to make sure their footprint is as little as possible and their educational facilitate is a role of showcasing environmental best practise (Enviro-Mark Solutions). From 2014 to 2019, they have been setting up their emission reduction plan to reduce the overall emissions 5% reduction per visitor by June 2020 in three areas: reduce waster, reduce diesel and petrol consumption and reduce electricity consumption (Enviro-Mark Solutions). They work with Sustainability Trust’s waste audit and drive an ongoing positive culture towards waste reduction, they try to convert to electronic options than petrol powered tools and vehicles where possible, they retrofit all Sanctuary buildings lights with L.E.D equivalent and upgrade Rātā café oven with a higher energy efficiency mode (Enviro-Mark Solutions).  Besides, ZEALANDIA tourism product advisor Gabby Lawton said they have their carbon reduction measures we have in these place: they use solar panels on their Visitors Centre roof, they waste reduction by their organisation (recycling, composting), they order smaller stocks of brochures to prevent waste and only print when necessary, they ask their suppliers to use less packaging for products sold in the store, they use reusable  china cups for serving kawakawa tea at the end of night tours, in place of paper cups (a reduction in over 5000 cups going to landfill each year), they re-use a lot of building materials before sending to landfill , they have two electric shuttles, electric vehicle charging stations and electric bike charging stations to reduce diesel consumption.

Economic Growth

To achieve economic growth, ecotourism has to build the wellbeing of locals through spreading the host country’s social and environmental culture, it is valuable for both people and the Planet. Local communities could benefit greatly from growing tourists number and of whom respect their lands.  ZEALANDIA used be a forgotten dam, but due to the restoration project and the operation that offering exciting experiences, it attracts more tourists come to visit. The visitors number grew from just over 80,000 in 2012/2013 to 126,000 in 2015/2016. By the year 2016, ZEALNDIA has achieved its best year of night tour, guided 4,000 visitors using torchlight through valley to experience rare nocturnal species. Volunteers guided over 6,000 international visitors on day tours, including a growing number of cruise ship (ZEALANDIA Annual Report, 2015/2016, pp.8,28). The earned revenue has reached to $3,326,860 in 2015/2016 from the year 2014/2015 of $2,474,784, with a 34% increase (ZEALANDIA Annual Report, 2015/2016, pp.28). The income can be shared amongst the community, contributing to more jobs and a boost in the local economy. It also can be turnover to restoring species and put more investments on building low-impact facilities. “In 2015/16, the sanctuary raised over $80,000 that directly supported the translocation of the spotted skink, installation of the electric vehicle charging stations and the solar panel project” (ZEALANDIA Annual Report, 2015/2016, pp.16). ZEALANDIA provide this pure, unique, green experience to match the expectations of many tourists in New Zealand, attracting both new visitors and returning customers. ZEALANDIA Annual Report (2015/2016) noted 2,881 visitors came to see Sirocco, 3,250 visitors participated in the Great ZEALANDIA Easter Egg Hunt, 4,929 came to the open weekend and 10,000 went for night tour and day tour (pp.9). Tourism product advisor Gabby Lawton said many of our tourists will visit once only, as that is the nature of visitors who are here on holiday. However, they use some strategies to keep the visitors returning as each tour ticket ZEALANDIA sold they allow the visitors to return the next day for a free self-guided visit. They found many like to do this especially if they did a night tour and want to see the sanctuary in the day time. The three types of tours, to offer visitors variety, which can encourage them to return. They recommend that visitors share Zealandia with their friends and family, to talk about the concept of a sanctuary next to a city and the benefits of nature to our loves. This encourages people to return with their friends and family, and spreads the word of Zealandia. 



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