In the third in our Tread Lightly series, Elisabeth Easther meets the tourism operators making big changes to become more sustainable. Video / NZ Herald
In the third in our Tread Lightly series, Elisabeth Easther meets the tourism operators making big changes to become more sustainable
There are many Kiwi tourism operators making significant changes to the way they operate – protecting and restoring the environments you love to visit, so they can be enjoyed for generations to come. Here are just a few.
For more than 30 years Adventure South NZ have been offering small group multi-day cycling and hiking holidays across New Zealand. As ardent fans of Aotearoa’s natural wonders and scenic beauty, Adventure South also strive to ensure the environments they showcase remain pristine.
To achieve their ambitious green goals, Adventure South NZ reduce waste by having stringent recycling and composting procedures on trip and at their depot. They donate all their old bikes and helmets to community support agencies which not only minimises their impact on landfill, it encourages people to ride bikes. Annual tree planting days and rubbish pick-up days are standard fixtures for admin staff and guide teams.
They’ve also just finished an audit to move their entire suite of trips to a carbon-neutral model with additional costs carried by Adventure South NZ, although being a company largely offering human-powered group travel their emissions are relatively low to begin with.
Six years ago Island Aviation – which includes Auckland Seaplanes and Waiheke Wings – became New Zealand’s first air operator to achieve carboNZero status. To reach that lofty goal, they offset carbon emissions through native reforestation projects which in turn benefit biodiversity by improving water quality and habitats for native species.
Island Aviation also re-use rainwater from their office roof and are currently switching their vehicle fleet to electric and hybrid. This thoughtful company even transports endangered species to islands of the Hauraki Gulf in their seaplanes.
Regular open days at their Waiheke Airport raise funds for community organisations, and they collaborate closely with Te Korowai o Waiheke to help make Waiheke the largest pest-free Island in Aotearoa. More than just a transport service, Island Aviation demonstrate their love of the regions they serve in everything they do.
Mārahau Pledge, Nelson Tasman Region
The Mārahau Pledge is a collaborative initiative signed by all the tourism operators in Mārahau. As the gateway to The Abel Tasman National Park, these companies are dedicated to protecting and enhancing the precious region they live and work in. The pledge includes co-operating on sustainability outcomes, offering certified carbon-zero services and donating a fee from every ticketed experience they sell. This donation goes towards supporting environmental projects such as predator trapping and wetlands restoration. Treading lightly and exploring slowly, if you book your water taxi, your kayaks or any of your guiding assistance in Mārahau, you’ll be assisting this vital and wonderful work.
Earthlore Nature Tours and Activities, The Catlins
Passionate conservationists, Gordon and Janine Thompson have been developing Earthlore since 2006, transforming their 10-acre lifestyle block into a wildlife haven. Their aim is to educate and inspire others to care for the environment. Having been involved in conservation for more than 12 years, Janine and Gordon take part in numerous ecological projects including planting, weed management and citizen science projects with moths and bats.
Their love for nature shines through their Give Back To Nature Tours where guests help to create habitat for hoiho, (yellow-eyed penguins) while also sharing a picnic and visiting other conservation projects, Bat Walk Tours and Nature at Night Tour both include listening for critically endangered pekapeka-tau-roa (long-tailed bats). As well as offering tours, Earthlore’s new tiny home eco-accommodation is proving very popular with visitors who wish to embrace nature
AWOL Adventures Rainforest Canyoning, Auckland
AWOL is a canyoning company that provides nature-based recreation adventures in the Waitākere Rainforest just 40 minutes from central Auckland. The brainchild of Cam Bowen, he and his team take guests on guided canyon expeditions via a series of abseils, before entering a narrow volcanic gorge with caves, pools and jumps that are otherwise inaccessible to the public.
Tours are currently suspended due to the impact of Cyclone Gabrielle – while the canyon weathered the storm well, the roads out to Piha and on the tracks to the canyon have been impacted by slips and Piha is closed to everyone except locals until further notice.
While tours are offline, the canyon guides are busy working their second jobs – fixing the track network. This has been an ongoing project over the past four years, alongside Auckland Council and the Jobs For Nature Fund. AWOL has been working with Waitākere Ranges park rangers to create a “dry-foot experience”. This sees tracks constructed in such a way so as to ensure there is a gravel barrier between soil pathogens and people’s shoes, which greatly reduces the possibility of kauri dieback being transported.
AWOL’s focus is on education, providing visitors with the knowledge to return to explore independently, because the more people know, the more they’ll grow to cherish the forest and strive to see it protected.
Hamilton Gardens, Waikato
Hamilton Gardens used to be a rubbish dump, until 1960 when four acres were handed to Hamilton Council for a public garden. Today it’s a 54-hectare botanical, ecological and artistic wonderland. With a commitment to sustainability and conservation, Hamilton Gardens is set to become carbon neutral by 2030 thanks to carbon offsetting and onsite alternative power generation.
As for Te Parapara Garden, named for the site’s original Māori settlement, it is Aotearoa’s only productive traditional Māori garden, with kumara crops planted and harvested annually and the bounty distributed to local iwi and charities. All surplus produce from other producing gardens, including the Kitchen Garden, is given to Kaivolution, a local charity providing fresh food to locals in need.
Discover Waitomo are more than a commercial tourism operator, they are also kaitiaki, or guardians, of Waitomo Glowworm Cave, the Ruakuri Cave and the Aranui Cave. As part of that responsibility to this wonderous landscape, the environmental team monitor the caves using an elaborate network of sensors and cameras to ensure appropriate management of cave climate conditions to protect glow-worm populations.
Their work also includes planting and fencing to exclude livestock, which enhances the waters and surrounding awa. They’ve partnered with DOC to perform pest eradication duties, which benefits biodiversity and they help manuhiri (visitors) reduce their carbon footprint by offering ‘good for a lifetime’ souvenirs. They’ve also eliminated single-use plastics and reduced waste across the board, making for a top-notch underground experience.
Lava Glass, Taupō
Glass-blowing experience Lava Glass has been carbon-neutral since 2021. With Toitū Envirocare Accreditation, they’ve planted 1000 mānuka trees on-site as well as acquiring 100 hectares of land to plant even more trees, including 30 hectares of natives.
They’ve reduced emissions by 75 per cent by switching from a gas furnace to electric and they’ve reduced their waste by more than 75 per cent through recycling and composting. Bubble wrap has been replaced with eco-friendly Greenwrap while plastic straws are no more.
The Lava Glass team all drive EVs, and the grounds are maintained with electric tools because these artists are dedicated to making their beautiful glass works in a sustainable way. This means every decision Lava Glass makes is looked at through the lens of lessening their impact on the earth.
Mauao Adventures, Bay of Plenty
Mauao Adventures offer guided walking tours, stand-up paddle boarding and Waka Ama (outrigger canoe) experiences combined with storytelling around Mauao (Mount Maunganui). During the guided walk, guides shares the significance of the maunga to local iwi and teach about the environmental efforts being made to keep Mauao and the surrounding waters pristine. These experiences are followed by a waste-free ‘Taste of Tauranga’ catered lunch package which features delicious local produce and products
Support Lumiserver & Cynesys on Tipeee
Visit our sponsors
Wise (formerly TransferWise) is the cheaper, easier way to send money abroad. It helps people move money quickly and easily between bank accounts in different countries. Convert 60+ currencies with ridiculously low fees - on average 7x cheaper than a bank. No hidden fees, no markup on the exchange rate, ever.
Now you can get a free first transfer up to 500£ with your ESNcard. You can access this offer here.