Milford Opportunities Newsletter

September 2023

Milford Opportunities September 2023 newsletter

Kia ora and welcome to the September Milford Opportunities Newsletter, this World Tourism Day, (which incidentally has an appropriate theme of ‘Tourism & green investments’).

Excitingly we are today announcing the appointment of a new Milford Opportunities Ministerial Advisory Board Chair alongside two new board members. Read on to learn more, plus:

  • links to the June Milford Opportunities Project Cabinet Paper,
  • info on upcoming engagement sessions,
  • a look at a new overnight tramping proposal we are exploring in the Eglinton, and
  • an opportunity to hear from Kantar on their recently released international and domestic consumer research.


Ngā mihi

Phil Tisch, Fi Roberts & Lizzy Sutcliffe
Milford Opportunities Engagement & Communications Team

Milford Opportunities September 2023 newsletter

New board chair and members

Jenn Bestwick, Arihia Bennett and Dave Bamford

This month we are celebrating three excellent additions to the Milford Opportunities Ministerial Advisory Board including new board chair, former Tourism New Zealand Board member, Jenn Bestwick who takes up the reigns from our acting chair Bill Day.

In her own words Jenn says she relishes the opportunity to steer Milford Opportunities through the vital coming months for the project.

“I’m passionate about New Zealand, particularly Te Wai Pounamu – the South Island which is my home. Having spent many happy times tramping, kayaking and generally enjoying our unique biodiversity and outdoors, I’m passionate about ensuring this legacy is preserved and that our connection to place, biodiversity and our amazing landscapes, remains central to our tourism reputation.

“Piopiotahi is a global attraction.  It’s vital we deliver viable options that will benefit this incredible place and those connected to it.”

Jenn is joined by two new board members Chief Executive Officer of Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, Arihia Bennett and independent tourism thought leader, Dave Bamford.

It’s fantastic to now have a full board with this level of skill and experience to steer our work.

We’re incredibly grateful to Bill Day who stepped into the acting chair role following Dr Keith Turner’s retirement in March 2023, and delighted that he remains committed to the project as a board member.

Find out more about the new chair and board members by reading today’s media release>


New board chair and members

Cabinet paper – Milford Opportunities Project: Initial Policy Decisions

The Milford Opportunities Project is comprised of a Unit and a Ministerial Advisory Board providing advice to a Ministerial Oversight Group (with the Conservation, Transport and Tourism ministers). The Ministerial Group reports back to Cabinet, as the final decision makers on the work, and in June this year, took a paper to Cabinet on Milford Opportunities Project: Initial Policy Decisions.

We’re really pleased to be able to share this Cabinet paper and Minute of Decision, which the Conservation Minister has asked DOC to release on its website.

While it contains some redactions (mainly relating to commercial or privacy withholding grounds under the Official Information Act) the paper is well worth a read. It highlights priority areas for the project, touches on feedback to date (noting it is from June 2023) and next steps for our work.


The paper lays out five key areas for Cabinet to consider when making decisions on the final model for Milford Sounds Piopiotahi:

  1. Appetite to adopt new or novel Treaty partnership arrangements for Piopiotahi in the context of the wider Māori Crown relationship
  2. Whether access to Piopiotahi should be managed including via the Milford Road, and on what basis
  3. The financial sustainability of the commercial, funding and delivery model, including the charging regime that may apply and the level and type of funding the Crown is prepared to approve to implement the changes
  4. How to work with current concession holders
  5. Whether current management and governance arrangements will enable the level of change and pace of change required

It’s located, with the associated Minute of Decision, on DOC’s Milford Opportunities Project web page along with links to other DOC information and documents on the project.

Domestic and international consumer insights

Earlier this month we shared a media release with you on domestic and international consumer insights relating to Piopiotahi Milford Sound and the Milford Opportunities Masterplan. We were delighted to see such a high degree of enthusiasm for responsible tourism to this area and that many of the masterplan’s recommendations make sense from a visitor perspective.

We know that many international visitors choose New Zealand for its incredible natural landscapes. It follows that visitors would want to feel they were contributing to safeguarding these places, but it is still rewarding to see 79% of international visitors actually opting in to pay for something (providing this goes back into the place and its communities). Many countries are accustomed to paying to visit their national parks or World Heritage sites and want to know they are appropriately contributing to the places they enjoy.

It was less surprising but equally rewarding to see that New Zealanders highly value Piopiotahi. The research gave us clear messages, this is an icon of New Zealand, our work must protect and uphold the area’s pristine nature and, when it comes to infrastructure and development, people want less and better.

Overall, the majority of domestic (75%) and international (91%) respondents liked the masterplan and its ideas. However, there were some interesting insights regarding how people felt any proposed changes might impact living and working in the area. We are continually mindful of any wider implications from this work and encourage people to keep providing feedback and sharing context with the project team as you can.

Domestic and international consumer insights

Your chance to hear more – Kantar research presentation

There’s an opportunity to hear directly from Kantar when they present on the research next Thursday afternoon at the webinar: Kantar Insights: People’s views on the Milford Opportunities Project

Time: 3.30pm -5pm

Date: 5 October 2023

Venue: Milford Opportunities Hub or via MS Teams – Webinar Link

Please register to confirm your interest

Note: It might be possible to submit questions in the ‘chat’ during the webinar, you can also get your questions in early by emailing 

About the research

We sought to ensure the research was high-quality and undertaken at arm’s length from the project by commissioning it through Tourism New Zealand, who subsequently commissioned Kantar to deliver it.

The international research surveyed approx. 4,900 people across key markets (Australia, USA, United Kingdom, Germany, China, Japan, India) and the domestic another 1000 including 150 residents of Southland region 100 residents of Queenstown Lakes district 100 New Zealanders identifying as Māori. On top of that the qualitative research involved 13 focus groups covering 45 participants (three each for US, China, and Australia, and four for New Zealand).

This research provides valuable insights to inform our work to feasibility test the masterplan’s recommendations, alongside our engagement programme, policy development, and technical and commercial research.

Read more about the research or view it by visiting the media release: Research reveals consumer insights on Milford Sound

Exploring a new Eglinton overnight tramping opportunity

We’ve initiated exploration of a potential overnight tramp put forward by the New Zealand Alpine Club (NZAC) as an alternative to an option included in the Milford Opportunities Masterplan.

The masterplan proposed a Great Walk style ‘easy tramping track’ and high-standard hut (up to 80 bunks) for Mistake Creek in the upper Eglinton Valley. The track would start from and return to the Ōtāpara Cascade Creek campsite. The track proposal also included two short walks from the hut site to viewpoints further up valley from the hut. The 2-day out-and-back walk was proposed to complement the other shorter and longer walks already offered along the corridor.

Through engagement with local walking groups, NZAC, DOC and others, concerns were raised about the proposal’s potential impact on an existing experience that is highly valued locally. Concerns were also raised about the potential to draw less experienced visitors into hazardous terrain further up valley.

As a result, NZAC’s Southland Section has investigated and proposed an alternative location for the overnight tramp. NZAC’s proposal is located on the western side of the Countess Range, further back down the Eglinton Valley near the Fiordland National Park boundary.

NZAC’s proposal is for an ‘advanced tramping track’ and a smaller, simpler 20-bunk hut. The hut would be located above bushline with expansive views up the Eglinton Valley, across to the Earl Mountains and Lake Te Anau, and south along the Livingstone Mountains. The track and hut would provide an experience similar to Brewster Hut near Haast Pass and Mt Brown Hut near Hokitika.

We’ve agreed to test this proposal as part of our assessment of the feasibility of the other proposals in the masterplan. As the original proposal was for an ‘easy tramping track’ and high-standard hut the Transport & Infrastructure Team will also test the proposal through this lens – providing an opportunity for less experienced users. The Mistake Creek proposal will only be re-visited if the Countess Range proposals prove to be infeasible, taking the feedback we’ve received to date into account.

Take a look at NZAC’s proposed overnight tramp (PDF, 4.82MB)

View feedback on the huts and walking tracks proposed in the masterplan as a PDF file

Exploring a new Eglinton overnight tramping opportunity


Upcoming Milford community update

Tuesday 3 October 6.30pm, Blue Duck Café, Milford Sound Piopiotahi

We are aware that there are limited opportunities prior to the busy summer season, for Milford locals to feed into our work as we develop options based off the recommendations of the Milford Opportunities Masterplan.

Come along for an informal update on the work and share your thoughts and feedback. We’ll provide some light snacks and drinks. Everyone welcome.

Any questions email

Drop into the Te Anau hub 25 October

The next Te Anau drop-in session at the Milford Opportunities Hub is Wednesday 25 October 2023. Contact our Principal Engagement Advisor Fi Roberts to arrange a time to visit: or 027 200 6737

Recent feedback

We are still working through feedback from engagement sessions in late August with the Fiordland Business Association and Milford residents. We aim to share this in our October newsletter once attendees have had an opportunity to check everything is correct.