sign uplog in
Want to go ad-free? Find out how, here.

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton calls for the introduction of four policies to tackle the impact of tourism on the New Zealand environment

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Simon Upton calls for the introduction of four policies to tackle the impact of tourism on the New Zealand environment

Simon Upton, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, is calling for the introduction of four policies to tackle the impact of tourism on the New Zealand environment.

In a new report Upton says the Government should take advantage of the COVID-19 induced pause in international tourism to change the sector into one with a significantly smaller environmental footprint.

Upton's four policy proposals include: Introduce a departure tax that reflects the environmental cost of flying internationally from NZ; Make any future central government funding for tourism infrastructure conditional on environmental criteria; Clarify and, where necessary, strengthen the tools the Department of Conservation can use to address the loss of wildness and natural quiet at some of NZ's most spectacular natural attractions. And; Strengthen the existing standard for self-contained freedom camping.

"Tourism is marketed as environmentally benign but it’s not. Greenhouse gas emissions from tourists flying to and from New Zealand, a loss of wildness and natural quiet in popular parts of our national parks, and pressure on wastewater networks and solid waste infrastructure in our towns and cities were increasing as millions of people visited our country every year," Upton says.

"Preventing a return to the status quo will require real changes to business models and individual tourist behaviour. To achieve this, the industry needs to set aside the language of marketing and engage instead with evidence, trade-offs and policy choices."

”These proposals are not 100% of the solution, but together, they just might make a difference,” says Upton. 

In terms of the departure tax, Upton's proposing this be based on how far people travel, with different charges for short-haul flights to Australia and the Pacific, medium-haul flights to Asia and long-haul flights to the rest of the world. However, he stops short of recommending specific charges. 

Upton's full report, Not 100% – but four steps closer to sustainable tourism, is here. And below is a press release issued by Upton.

Not 100% – but four steps closer to sustainable tourism

Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, is urging the Government to take advantage of the pause in international tourism to transform the sector to one with a substantially smaller environmental footprint.

Covid-19 has brought international tourism activity to a halt, threatening the livelihoods and commercial viability of many of New Zealand’s tourism-related businesses.

But the discontinuity created by Covid-19 also offers an opportunity to address some of the long-standing environmental and social issues associated with New Zealand’s tourism industry.

“There is broad support for the idea that protecting tourism livelihoods in the short term should not morph into a slow but inexorable return to the status quo in the long term,” Mr Upton says.

The Commissioner presents a set of four policy proposals to combat some of the more pressing environmental challenges faced by tourism.

• Introduce a departure tax that reflects the environmental cost of flying internationally from New Zealand, and use the revenue to support the development of low-emissions aviation technologies and provide a source of climate finance for Pacific Island nations.

• Make any future central government funding for tourism infrastructure conditional on environmental criteria and aligned with mana whenua and the local community’s vision for tourism development.

• Clarify and, where necessary, strengthen the tools the Department of Conservation can use to address the loss of wildness and natural quiet at some of Aotearoa’s most spectacular natural attractions. This includes tightening up rules around commercial activity on conservation lands and waters.

• Strengthen the existing standard for self-contained freedom camping, improve oversight of the certifying process and require rental car agencies to play a greater role in collecting freedom camping infringement fees and fines.

”These proposals are not 100 per cent of the solution, but together, they just might make a difference,” he explains.

Any transition will require real changes to business models and individual tourist behaviour.

Tourists – and the tourism businesses that serve them – should be required to pay for the cost of the environmental services they use.

It is also essential that the wishes of communities and mana whenua are respected when decisions about new tourism developments are being considered.

“Tourism’s growth has been built on special attention and subsidies for decades.

“This has been followed by subsidies to cope with the pressures of that growth.

“It is time to consider measures that ask the industry and tourists to meet some of these costs and moderate demand for activities that deliver negative environmental outcomes.”

The Commissioner’s 2019 report Pristine, popular… imperilled? The environmental consequences of projected tourism growth found that tourism is less environmentally benign than it has often been made out to be.

Every time a tourist flies to, from or around New Zealand, we add to the stock of greenhouse gases that are driving climatic disruption.

Tourism contributes to significant claims on water and landscape modification for the extension and hardening of infrastructure to accommodate growing numbers.

There is also a loss of wildness and natural quiet that takes place when each additional tourist is introduced to iconic sites in national parks or special beaches.

“If we act now, we have the chance to transition the industry to one that is less environmentally harmful – as well as more resilient – than its predecessor.” 

And here are a series of questions and answers released by Upton.

Not 100% – but four steps closer to sustainable tourism

Frequently asked questions

What is this report about?

New Zealand’s tourism industry has grown rapidly in recent decades. The Commissioner’s 2019 report, Pristine, popular... imperilled? The environmental consequences of projected tourism growth, set out how persistent tourism growth had resulted in serious environmental issues, and how forecast visitor numbers – at the time – would only make those issues worse.

This report puts forward four proposals that could make a real difference to those problems.

What are the environmental impacts of tourism?

Tourism is marketed as environmentally benign but it’s not. Greenhouse gas emissions from tourists flying to and from New Zealand, a loss of wildness and natural quiet in popular parts of our national parks, and pressure on wastewater networks and solid waste infrastructure in our towns and cities were increasing as millions of people visited our country every year.

Why make these proposals now? Hasn’t Covid-19 wreaked enough havoc on the tourism industry?

Covid-19 has brought international tourism activity to a halt, creating considerable hardship for those in the tourism industry. Many will argue that now is not the time to try and shift New Zealand’s tourism sector onto a more sustainable footing.

But there will never be a good time. While the near-term outlook for the sector is grim, international tourism will eventually return as vaccination rates increase and borders reopen. Rather than returning to business as usual, the Commissioner argues we should use this time to transition to a form of tourism that is less environmentally harmful – and more resilient – than its predecessor. International tourism should reopen on a new, more sustainable basis.

How can tourism have a lighter environmental footprint?

Preventing a return to the status quo will require real changes to business models and individual tourist behaviour. To achieve this, the industry needs to set aside the language of marketing and engage instead with evidence, trade-offs and policy choices.

Tourists – and the tourism businesses that serve them – should be required to pay for the cost of the environmental services they use and the environmental damages they impose.

Growth at all costs should not be the only driver. The wishes of communities and mana whenua should be a key input into decisions about tourism developments.

Tourism also needs to be treated the same as any other sector of the economy. In 2019 alone, the Government spent around $250 million on tourism-related initiatives, and in the wake of Covid-19, the industry received considerable financial support. Continuing to give it special attention and subsidy over the long term will only further entrench negative consequences of growth.

What does the Commissioner recommend?

• Introduce a departure tax that reflects the environmental cost of flying internationally from New Zealand, and use the revenue to support development of low-emissions aviation technologies and provide a source of climate finance for Pacific Island nations.

• Make any future central government funding for tourism infrastructure conditional on environmental criteria and aligned with mana whenua and the local community’s vision for tourism development.

• Clarify and, where necessary, strengthen the tools the Department of Conservation can use to address the loss of wildness and natural quiet at some of Aotearoa’s most spectacular natural attractions. This includes tightening up rules around commercial activity on conservation lands and waters.

• Strengthen the existing standard for self-contained freedom camping, improve oversight of the certifying process and require rental car agencies to play a greater role in collecting freedom camping infringement fees and fines.

Would a departure tax stop tourists coming to New Zealand?

The tax might result in some tourists choosing not to visit New Zealand – although any departure tax would be a tiny percentage of the cost of most trips. Beyond that, research conducted for this report indicates that New Zealand is something of a must-visit destination for many people, with demand not being overly sensitive to an increase in airfares. A climate-related tax could also enhance New Zealand’s reputation if we are seen as more sustainable than competing destinations.

What would a departure tax mean for my trip overseas? Would New Zealanders have to pay?

Yes. New Zealand tourists are no less responsible for generating aviation emissions than other international tourists. Exempting New Zealanders would reduce the effectiveness of the tax and be perceived as unfair and discriminatory towards foreigners.

The report proposes a departure tax based on how far people travel, with different charges for short- haul flights to Australia and the Pacific, medium-haul flights to Asia and long-haul flights to the rest of the world. The Commissioner is not recommending a specific charge but notes that the United Kingdom has a departure tax set at the equivalent of NZ$25 for short-haul trips and NZ$155 for long- haul trips.

Should central government continue funding tourism infrastructure?

The Government has provided significant funding for tourism infrastructure, often in the form of contestable funds such as the $100 million Tourism Infrastructure Fund. It is the Government’s prerogative on whether this should continue – no judgement has been made in this report.

But in any future involving increased tourism demand, building more infrastructure offers little more than a stopgap solution to place-based tourism pressures. Infrastructure itself has an environmental footprint – this is evident in the landscape change surrounding places like Queenstown and Wānaka.

Is building a new toilet block or car park even what communities want?

Government subsidies for the construction of toilets, wastewater networks, rubbish bins and car parks have helped relieve some of the tourism-based pressures in local areas. But better facilities encourage more tourists and building somewhere new simply shifts the environmental burden elsewhere.

More tourists aren’t always what communities want. The report found that in places like Akaroa, some locals benefit from tourism but others have had little say and feel imposed on. This is backed up by the 2020 Mood of the Nation survey that found that 42 per cent of New Zealanders think tourism puts too much pressure on New Zealand.

If the Government continues to fund tourism infrastructure, it should ensure that the infrastructure aligns with mana whenua and the community’s vision for tourism development – as set out in a local destination management plan. The infrastructure should also meet high environmental performance standards.

Are New Zealand’s wild areas becoming overcrowded by tourists?

No, not everywhere. But by 2019, thousands of people were visiting treasured places like Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Milford Sound each day during peak periods. It had become difficult to visit a number of Aotearoa’s premier natural attractions without encountering throngs of other visitors, noise from planes and helicopters, or the visual effects of cruise ships, buses and cars. The Department of Conservation’s management plans envisage limits but they have no way of enforcing them.

How can we protect the sense of wildness and natural quiet that people come to see?

In conservation lands and waters, the Department of Conservation has focused largely on accommodating visitor growth, either by increasing the carrying capacity of existing destinations or creating new destinations. The Commissioner believes the focus needs to shift to demand management to prevent the loss of wildness and natural quiet that occurs in places like Milford Sound spreading elsewhere.

For commercial activities, the Commissioner recommends imposing stricter environmental conditions on concessions, such as limiting noise and visual pollution from helicopter flights or restricting activities to certain times or days.

For visitor access to a small number of choke points, tools to restrict visitor numbers such as first-in first-served limits, reservations or access charges should be explored.

Wouldn’t access charges mean Kiwis have to pay to access their birthright?

Access charges are only one option. Simply limiting numbers is another. The Commissioner suggests that tools like these are only used to reduce strain at a handful of sites where visitor numbers approach undesirable levels. It’s not a blanket proposal across the entire conservation estate, or even for all times of the year.

If charges were considered, domestic and international visitors could be treated differently. Special consideration would have to be given to local iwi. Asking Māori to pay for access to lands that they have an ancestral connection to would arguably be inconsistent with the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi.

The Commissioner believes we shouldn’t be afraid to debate limits or charges. Rejecting any limits on numbers will simply see problems worsen.

Aren’t freedom campers the ones causing all the trouble? Why do we need more regulation?

Self-contained vehicles like your standard campervan have onboard toilets and wastewater facilities so can camp in a wide range of locations. Cars or vans without toilets or plumbing are usually restricted to camping only in areas with toilets. But many vehicles that barely meet the standards are getting certified as self-contained – like cars that have folding toilets that are unlikely to actually be used.

The Commissioner recommends strengthening the New Zealand Standard for self-containment of motor caravans and caravans to ensure that toilets are permanently plumbed, with separate holding tanks for grey and black water. The Commissioner also recommends making a government department or other national-level organisation responsible for these standards to guarantee consistency in certification, and creating an online database of compliant vehicles.

Who will these freedom camping proposals affect?

The main impact will fall on tourists who currently use small vans or people movers to camp in. Under a strengthened standard for self-containment, it may well be difficult for such vehicles to gain certification. That would leave those tourists facing a choice between staying at the smaller number of places reserved for non-self-contained vehicles, spending more money on a vehicle that could achieve the standard or using paid accommodation and camping grounds.

On the commercial side, the rental firms most likely to be affected would be those that specialise in budget ‘self-contained’ vans and people movers.

These recommendations put the onus back on those camping – if you want to camp, then you need to make sure you aren’t having a negative impact on your environment. Be a tidy Kiwi.

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

59 Comments

"Growth at all costs should not be the only driver." Just one of the drivers then?

Upton is smarter than that. His CV tells us so and I've never thought otherwise.

He is well aware of the human predicament; well aware it's not just climate. What he's doing is pushing as far as he can without leaving people behind (the old problem). On the right track, though. DoC are so not DoC these days that they probably identify trees as a hazard (so they'll have to be chopped down) but won't chop them down because it might offend their budding gender issues.....

"Introduce a departure tax that reflects the environmental cost of flying internationally from New Zealand"

So instead of making tourists pay the price that reflects the environmental cost of flying internationally TO New Zealand we must charge this just to ourselves? That's enough already.

Er, no, if the tourists want to go back to their own country, they have to pay the tax to leave as well.

Presumably a departure tax is easier to implement than an arrival tax?

Good point, except for that not necessary all Kiwis flying off the country are tourists (the same might happen for non residents). Are we trying to tax tourism or transport instead?

"Are we trying to tax tourism or transport instead?" - Both

The report is called "Not 100% – but four steps closer to sustainable tourism"

Very true - it is. Mainly because the main thrust is about tourism. The departure tax would probably be more like a travel (transport if you like) tax.

A departure / arrival tax would nudge tourists to either stay longer or not come - so we would get less CO2 emissions per tourist day. Sounds like a good idea.

We already have a departure tax of $25 included in airfares circa 2010

Talk about kicking them while there down

this govt is so crazy on reducing ghg emission from NZ.

it will do neither good for NZ nor the 'global climate change' but only good for Arden's possible future role at the UN.

obvious, right?

xingm,

Your own government-that's the Chinese government to which you report- is conscious of the need to reduce ghg emissions. The fact that our emissions-high on a per capita basis-are small globally, does not give us permission to do nothing.
Your cheap shot at the PM is a good indication of your character.

13
up

Comments seem a little down on this proposal so far but looks like a good start to me, particularly giving DOC more teeth in maintaining our natural environment. Hopefully this will apply some breaks to the increasing prevalence of helicopter trips and similar in wilderness areas.

Departure tax sounds reasonable, something along the lines of forcing a carbon offset of the flight rather than the current optional purchase. So long as the money raised is targeted well and produces genuine offsets that sounds good.

The current self contained regulations are a joke, I know several people who have converted small vans with a chemical toilet stuffed in a corner somewhere that they have no intention of ever using. I'd support these being strengthened and enforced.

Good luck enforcing people to use the chemical toilet!

21
up

These all seem like sensible suggestions.
I don't know that we can keep pretending like the environmental and social impacts of tourism are no big deal when they clearly are. Here's an opportunity for a reset, let's take it.

Good proposals.

Love how double jeopardies are created to satisfy perverted ideologies.

Everyone working in the tourism sectors should seriously consider their WINZ option right now or eat the mountains in serenity. Europe is a much better place to visit by a long mile and cheaper too.

Minor costs in the scheme of big international trips to get here.

Departure tax doesn’t really isolate tourism does it? All for change, this just seems to be missing the target.

less environmentally harmful

Nice to see someone using the correct term for a change instead of the usual "more sustainable"...

Not correct, just different. He's the Commissioner for the Environment, you'd expect that speak from him.

But tourism in present form, is totally unsustainable (as in unmaintainable). So too is agriculture, indeed the whole web of infrastructure we've wasted the one-off hit of fossil energy on.

? How is it not correct PDK? Tourism is environmentally damaging, so doing something to mitigate that would make it "less environmentally damaging" no?

Since July 2010 a New Zealand departure tax has been included in the airline ticket price for those leaving NZ
https://www.newzealand-motorhomes.com/faqs.php?category=&page=3

This departure tax was expected to produce $35 million per annum which was to be allocated to regional councils to help provide toilets and shower and cleanup facilities

Wrong.

There was an additional visitor levy of $35 imposed in 2018 to provide the toilets etc you speak of. The departure tax was never for that purpose.

Let's for a moment get over the proposed Departure Tax (which imo is a good idea) and focus on the other three proposals - all workable and arguably overdue, especially the freedom camping one about permanently piped effluent facilities. Freedom camping is a bane caused by many people in clapped out vans equipped with a "portapotty" at best. One of the worst bits of legislation passed by a short-sighted and ill-informed govt.
The idea to restrict tourism numbers is also worth debating - having queues of people lined up on the Tongariro Crossing for a photo op is just ridiculous. No doubt it happens elsewhere too. Catering for the increased numbers has cost some Councils 10s of millions they can't afford

One of the worst bits of legislation passed by a short-sighted and ill-informed govt.

What legislation are you referring to? Did some piece of central government legislation require that local authorities designate freedom camping areas?

I thought what happened was with the explosion in rental vans - folks started parking overnight in free public parking spaces en masse - and hence a set of regulations (for the rental vehicle industry) about what was/wasn't self-contained came out. Not sure there was any centrally directed legislation about what local councils could/could not do about designating (or not) areas for freedom camping.

It may have been driven by demand but it was a central Govt act that forced Local Govt to allow it.
https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2011/0061/latest/DLM3742815.html
Local Govt had to give consideration to and provision for the Act.

Oops - answered my own question with a search (passed in 2011);

https://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2011/0061/latest/DLM3742815.h...

Must go and read it now!

We already have an International Visitor Levy;

https://www.govt.nz/browse/immigration-and-visas/visitor-visas-and-the-n...

Which was supposed to fund local government tourist infrastructure (i.e., toilets, waste bins, etc.)

So a departure tax is double-dipping for overseas visitors.

And shouldn't carbon taxes on aviation fuel already deal to climate change mitigation (i.e., carbon offset) issues?

And why oh why did he not look at access charges to our National Parks (maybe he did, as I've not read the report yet)? The US has them for everyone. NZers could be exempted - int'l tourists could purchase them online from DOC for each National Park or Great Walk they intend to visit/do.

If we're "double dipping" who cares? Consider it a "carbon tax" - mandatory. As for DOC charges - charge everyone a reasonable fee across the board - easier to administer. A NZ tourist places the same demands on infrastructure as an overseas one. Certainly one of the central North Island iwi makes no distinction between NZers and overseas tourists to ascend Mt Tarawera, and White Island Tours made no distinction either, neither does Dive Tutukaka to dive the Poor Knights.

But we already have a carbon tax - that's what the ETS is all about (and I assume any airline fueling up in NZ will be subject to it). Hence ticket prices should reflect that CC mitigation obligation.

And the International Visitor Levy (presently set at $35 per incoming traveler), presently used to fund local authority tourism costs, could be increased to additionally fund DOC specifically (as opposed to a departure tax). But user-pay systems would be my preferred option.

Whether NZers should pay a fee to enter a National Park is debatable - given DOC is funded via taxpayers and concessions (the latter being the user-pay component of funding).

Kate, I may be wrong but I understand due to some international agreement reached in the aftermath of WW2 no country except Japan taxes aviation fuel, and this agreement precludes the application of the ETS to international air travel. The airline industry ( pre-covid) agreed to address the issue by 2026.

Cheers, did not know that. But if the case, all the more reason for us to wait for it with the rest-of-the-world. AirNZ (the airline I assume has the most departures from NZ of all int'l carriers) needs all the help it can get in terms of becoming viable again post-COVID.

No it doesn't. It should have been left to die. You said: "And shouldn't carbon taxes on aviation fuel already deal to climate change mitigation (i.e., carbon offset) issues?" No, of course they can't. The climate is being changed by the exhaust, the exhaust is from us obtaining energy from the burn, and there is both nothing to replace it like for like, and the problem that it's half depleted. As energy underwrites money, you can't tax something that uses energy to solve the exhaust; you have to actually pipe that exhaust somewhere. Which takes energy; lots of it. Which is why we don't do it (google carbon sequestration - images - note that it's all artist's impressions; sure indicator it's not happening in real time). We can't afford to deal to the exhaust because we don't have the surplus energy to triage to it, and even not dealing to it we're going deeper into unrepayable debt. So what is that tax again? If you don't understand, read Cannery Row; find out what Mack and the Boys 'paid' for the stove......

I don't think the time is right to abandon ANZ. I suspect all that will be left of airlines going forward are those kept alive by taxpayers (i.e., national carriers). And I think NZ needs its own national carrier for as long as possible. Perhaps NZ/AUS will consolidate/join forces under one national carrier umbrella but we need to keep our options open at this stage given our government hasn't even started to consider what longer term, low energy, self-sufficiency looks like or requires.

I agree Kate, that NZ needs to keep and maintain it's national carrier. I am strongly averse to any merger with Australia, given their history towards us. But a big part that is missing from this discussion is Sustainable Aviation Fuels (SAF) as they are being referred to. These are already being tested to reduce or remove the reliance on fossil fuel, but I suspect a catch that is not being discussed is that although they are not fossil fuel based, they still release CO2. And then there is electric and hybrid aircraft which are also making rapid advances, although as yet are not at commercially viable standards for passenger travel. But i do think they will be soon, and as the technological issues are solved, even long range flight may be possible.

Simon Upton is very smart, but I feel that he has not thought this through very much. A departure tax feels to me to be too much like a fence to keep Kiwis in, a Government ban or restriction on travel. I think there needs to be much more discussion and exploration on possible alternatives before we go down this track.

100% correct w3

Don't we already fund DOC through our taxes?

It wouldn't get my vote. It's one of the remaining 'free' activities we can do in our own country. Go for a stroll into the bush or up a mountain.

13
up

If farmers are expected to reduce stock numbers by 16% by 2030, and emissions by 47% by 2050, then those targets should apply equally to tourism.

Absolutely agree w3. Tourism reduction could and should happen by 2030 at the latest - 50% reduction on 2019 numbers

That would be administered by an annual limit being placed on visitor visa numbers.

www,

Having done the Tongariro Crossing twice while surrounded by thousands of others, many in jandals, I wholeheartedly agree. However, our tourist centres can't wait to see overseas visitors pouring back in. I feel sure that(very quietly) that's what the government wants as well. They didn't throw millions at "essential" enterprises like Waitomo and bungy jumping just for the domestic market.

There's not been a clear message one way or another from government on air transport. On the one hand they've declared a "climate emergency" and talked about the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions but on the other hand they keep subsidising an airline that alone is responsible for a not insignificant chunk of New Zealands greenhouse gas emissions.

They have yet to understand about energy. And there must be someone inside MBIE who has a bee in their bonnet re hydrogen 9which means they're probably skew-wiff about other things too. Govt - like Local Govt - is an oxymoron; it wants to keep on keeping on, but want's to address all the impacts of keeping on without apportioning any energy to the problem(s). So they kick the can down the road creating debt (a load on future generations if it were repayable, which it's not) to keep the unmaintainable maintained for an election-cycle or two, more

I'd be happy if we didn't let tourists back in at all. I would be ok with some if they were willing to pay some exorbitant tax that ensured we only got 10% of the previous tourist volumes.

Seems all sensible and needed to me. We need to improve things big time if the planet is to survive in the face of cheap and fast mass tourism. In that sense, a great initiative Mr Upton.

On the departure tax: I am all for it.
However, the term departure tax to me implies that everyone departing from NZ will pay it - and quite rightly so I think to have the desired effect of reducing mass travel.

Many of the comments however refer to "tourists" - in the sense of "yeah, good them paying it". Yet we Kiwis like to see ourselves as keen travelers.
More likely I think all Kiwis will be paying it, whether it is resident Kiwis leaving for an overseas holiday (as tourists), or Kiwis living and working overseas visiting NZ family (as tourists).

We should keep in mind, that not only NZ wants to reduce visitor numbers. Tourists in big numbers may be in the future less welcome in NZ, but we Kiwis may be less welcome overseas also. After all, NZ would not the be first to introduce travel taxes to manage numbers and reduce tourists.

I think we Kiwis (like everyone else also) are likely having to reduce our overseas travel due to rising travel taxes and air fares. Travelling might become a privilege for the wealthy again - unless ballot systems are considered. But I wouldn't count on anything similar.

In short, I think it is not only THEM that have to reduce travel trips, but also US, because to THEM, we are THEM also.

Good thoughts but if we want to discourage the type of over-tourism we had been seeing in NZ, it is more honestly done by way of capping visitor visa numbers in any single year. That ensures the intent is fulfilled - a tax does not.

It's a bit like reducing GHG emissions - if you honestly want to reduce them you regulate/require (not tax or offset) them down.

I can see your point. Limiting visas however would require putting an end to the reciprocal visa waiver agreements we all enjoy. Either way, if there is no pain involved, it will not achieve anything. I am ready to accept that pain is part of it, incl. for myself.

I have a slight unease about this. Although they're talking about exempting locals, what these proposals might end up doing is making NZ a place only for rich international tourists. Something just feels a bit wrong about that, although I totally agree we need to massively reduce the environmental harm from tourism.

Fe, rich international tourists is EXACTLY what we want. Less numbers, higher individual spend, better business contacts.

Well, that's one way to look at it (i.e., GDP terms). But another way to look at it (it being, limiting tourism numbers) is in societal enrichment terms - a sort of 'tourist visa lottery' given equal chance at access to all interested in coming to experience our unique indigenous culture, our social tolerance and diversity, and our natural environment. What they spend would be considered inconsequential to what they experience/learn about us - and hence about themselves. In other words, we could develop a Tourism NZ kaupapa/purpose along the lines of Outward Bound;

Today Outward Bound New Zealand’s vision is “Better People. Better Communities. Better World.” We believe that by helping people understand their full potential we can help make our communities and the world a better place.

Just thinking out loud about a different (i.e., non-economic) lens toward the future.

https://www.outwardbound.co.nz/about-us/about-outward-bound/

Kate.. really? NZ Tourism is a commercial venture, it sells "culture" or at least the rest of the worlds impression of it. It's a business - not a social education exercise. Put bluntly people come to NZ to see supposedly clean and environmentally enticing experiences, the interest value of Maori culture (grass skirts, tattooed "warriors" play acting their war dances and food cooked in an earth oven). They don't give a hoot about some sort of existentially uplifting and enrichment self discovery journey.

:-). You might be surprised. I grew up with a mother that firmly believed in travel as a cultural and personal/self-discovery enrichment for herself and us, as kids. As William Anders, one of the Apollo 8 astronauts said, "“We came all this way to explore the moon, and the most important thing is that we discovered the Earth.”

That first view we (society) got of the moon's grey surface in the foreground and our tiny blue planet in the background, launched a wider consciousness/environmental movement and with it many, individuals on a journey of self-discovery.

Well, I applaud your mother's view of the world and her place in it. If tourists truly wanted to embark on a cultural and self discovery journey perhaps they could seek our combined history of NZ - starting with a journey of discovery about how this country's historic events forever changed NZ - not for the better I would submit -
https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/nzwars-tainui/story/2018782134/document...

Hook: How would you filter the rich?
And if you are willing to accept that non-NZ citizens can no longer visit their NZ citizen family here unless their are rich.

I didn't say it would be easy but when 4 million tourists come in, something needs to be done. We need to make tourism more of an aspiration and less of an open slather approach. Maybe use accommodation (prepaid) as one filter. Certainly that would reduce the number of campers in clapped out "self contained" rustbuckets. Saw one of those the other day - I doubt it even had a warrant and was spewing that much burnt oil I had to pass it.

More rules, more taxes. Not much to like about this.

It would be a bit hypocritical to not tax kiwis flying as well. As a nation,we are big on long distance travel. And limiting backpackers here, whilst our young do their big o.es?.