Update from Milford Opportunities Board Chair Jenn Bestwick

University of Otago Policy School public lecture on Milford Opportunities

Jenn Bestwick

Last month I was invited to deliver a public lecture on the Milford Opportunities Project at the University of Otago’s Tourism Policy School in Queenstown.

The talk titled ‘Identifying regenerative tourism solutions for Piopiotahi Milford Sound’ looked at our work to unpick deep-seated tourism challenges and find positive solutions for the place, its people and visitors alike. It was great to share this work with tourism experts from across the country and exciting to see the high level of interest this project holds for the industry.

The Tourism Policy School was a two-day event to foster conversations between people across the tourism industry, from local business owners and community leaders to national policymakers and researchers. This year’s theme of ‘Connecting the Dots: Fostering a cohesive and connected tourism system’ was closely aligned with the work of the Milford Opportunities Project.

I spoke about the need to better manage Piopiotahi/Milford Sound as a taonga, while ensuring its legacy is preserved and connection to place, biodiversity, landscapes and people remain central to its tourism reputation.

Stunning, healthy, natural landscapes are at the core of the Milford Sound’s status as a jewel in the New Zealand tourism crown and anchor the area’s tourism economy and its communities. While day trippers continue to enjoy this place, we have an opportunity to deliver a more regenerative tourism system where visitors make a greater contribution to its nature and infrastructure.

There is general consensus that a few fundamentals must be addressed if this place is going to continue to sustain thriving nature, communities and businesses over the long-term.

  • Ongoing investment into conservation and appropriate infrastructure achieved through introducing an international access levy. This would place a higher value on visiting Piopiotahi, support New Zealand’s international brand of valuing our nature. Many visitors want to contribute appropriately to the places they visit.
  • Managing access by encouraging day visitors to travel to Piopiotahi via bus or guided tour, rather than taking a private car, and to spread visitation to avoid peak times. This would protect area’s natural tranquillity and offer a far safer, richer and more environmentally friendly option for visitors.
  • Delivering a more seamless world class visitor experience with our natural and cultural heritage at its heart. Weaving Ngāi Tahu’s story into the experience and providing targeted activities to enhance and slow down the journey.

How we achieve this with minimal impact on the needs of locals, operators and recreational users is key but also challenging. While change is never simple or easy, it is needed as visitors are forecast to reach 1.1 million in the next six years.