How to be an awesome tourist and protect New Zealand’s natural landscapes

For a small country (with a lot of sheep), New Zealand has a big reliance on its tourism industry.   In fact, our tourism industry is so important that the Prime Minister is also the Minster for Tourism.  No surprises Mr Key personally looks after this important portfolio, tourism is the country’s second-largest export earner.

With natural landscapes, a clean green environment and strong Maori culture, New Zealand offers a truly unique holiday experience.  Well, let’s face it, it’s a pretty, damn awesome place to come for a holiday.

And awesome things need protecting.

Did you know that walking and trekking is the third most popular activity for visitors to New Zealand?  We love the fact that so many visitors are keen to get out and explore New Zealand’s natural environments.  It’s just about impossible for anyone to stand amidst the ancient beech forests of the South Island or the volcanic landscape of the Tongariro Crossing and not feel a deep appreciation for what Mother Nature has provided.  And this often leads to a conversation about conservation.

When tourism and conservation go hand in hand then the winner at the end of the day is Mother Nature. 

Should tourists be allowed onto natural landscapes?

Just three years ago, a Franz Josef Glacier Guides’ hike would take you directly from the valley floor onto the terminal face of the glacier by foot.  These days, the terminal face is subject to the effects of a dramatic retreat and is now an unstable area prone to collapse or rockfall.  Franz Josef Glacier Guides now uses helicopters to access the incredible upper reaches of the glacier.

We are often asked if we should we still be hiking on the glacier? 

We think it’s more important now than ever.

When visitors to Franz Josef Glacier are standing amongst such an incredible natural phenomenon, they can’t help but be affected by the beauty and preciousness of it.  This often prompts our visitors to start a conversation about how to protect such natural wonders.

And it’s not just us, there are loads of tourist spots throughout New Zealand that make sure that visitors leave more informed and more thoughtful about where they have just been.  Whether it’s protecting natural landscapes, native animals or traditional cultures, there are some cool companies doing some cool things.

Here’s how you can be an awesome tourist and protect New Zealand while you’re travelling.

Stick to the ‘beaten track’

For every stunning natural landscape that tourists flock to, there are many, many more that are left untouched.  Because so much of New Zealand is difficult to access (unless you're a professional!), much of the country is left untouched.  By directing tourism to a small number of popular tourist spots, we allow many more to remain untouched.

Around 500,000 people visit Milford Sound each year.  While all those visitors are marvelling at the jaw-dropping scenery at Milford Sound, the rest of the pristine World Heritage-listed Fiordland National Park is left alone.  Although, the sandflies may have something to do with that.

milford sound

Spectacular Milford Sound

Support businesses that are doing good things

With over 4,500 tourism experiences to choose from in New Zealand, why not choose the operators who are doing good things for the environment they operate in.

Our neighbour, The West Coast Wildlife Centre runs a successful hatch and release programme for New Zealand’s rarest kiwi, the Rowi.  A visit to this attraction contributes directly to the centre’s vital conservation work. 

Rainbow Springs in Rotorua is set in 22 acres of native forest.  The entire experience is built around New Zealand’s largest and most successful kiwi conservation centre.

And there are a number of other great operators who work hard to protect our oceans while providing an amazing tourism experience. Places like Whale Watch Kaikoura and Dive Tutakaka do amazing things.

Kiwi Centaurian

Kiwi chick at The West Coast Wildlife Centre


Put yourself amongst nature

One-third of New Zealand is public conservation land, incorporating 14 National Parks.  That’s 30,000 square kilometres of nature-y, green, goodness.  Whether you’re into short day walks or multi-day gut busters, New Zealand’s National Parks are an outstanding way to appreciate the natural flora and fauna.

New Zealand’s conservation agency is The Department of Conservation (DOC).  This organisation is responsible for the 9 ‘Great Walks’ of New Zealand.  There are three in the North Island and six in the South Island.


The Routeburn Track. Image: DOC

Check the accreditation

Another great way to support environmental efforts is to look out for tourism companies that have been endorsed by Qualmark’s Enviro Awards.  Businesses with a Qualmark Enviro accreditation meet certain criteria around environmental responsibility, resource management and social responsibility.


We don’t want to stop you from having a rip-roaring time at the local pubs and scaring yourself silly on adrenaline activities, but it’s important to know that as a visitor you have the ability to help protect New Zealand’s natural landscapes and attractions.  And drink a lot of our beer.  That helps too.

Help protect what’s special about New Zealand, be an awesome tourist.