Use of public conservation land

  • Image, use of conservation land

    One-third of our land area is held as public conservation land managed by the Department of Conservation (DOC) to protect natural and cultural heritage, retain areas of wilderness, and enable recreation opportunities. The use of public conservation land makes an important socio-economic contribution at the local, regional, and national level, but increasing human activities on our protected areas can put pressure on these environments and degrade their cultural and aesthetic value. The activities range from recreational users on our Great Walks to commercial activities such as guiding, grazing, or building structures.

    We report on the individual use of bookable DOC huts and campgrounds on the nine Great Walks in national parks during peak seasons (1 November–30 April). We also report on the number and type of concessions (such as a permit, license, easement, or lease) and operators conducting private and commercial activities on public conservation land.

    We classified Use of conservation land as a case study.

    Key findings

    Increasing trend for the use of bookable units on Great Walks 
    Indeterminate trend for the number of recreation and non-recreation concessions on public conservation land
    Indeterminate trend for the number of recreation and non-recreation operators on public conservation land  

     

    The number of booked bed nights in huts and campsites on our Great Walks increased 52.1 percent (from 154,999 to 235,738) between the 2011/12 and 2016/17 booking seasons (1 November to 30 April). For all Great Walks, except the Milford Track, this was a significant increase.

    • The Abel Tasman Coastal Track has the highest number of booked bed nights per season (an average of 62,934). This is also the track with the highest number of huts and campsites that are available to be booked (an average of 127,444).
    • The Great Walks with the highest increase in booked bed nights were the Tongariro Northern Circuit (107.0 percent), Rakiura Track (78.2 percent), and Abel Tasman Coastal Track (77.2 percent).
    • For the 2016/2017 bookable season, all three Great Walks in Fiordland National Park (the Milford Track, Routeburn Track, and Kepler Track) were operating at near to full capacity (99.2, 86.6, and 85.4 percent, respectively) and could not have further increases in booked bed nights.

    On average per year, 1,050 recreational and 2,657 non-recreational private and commercial operators had active concessions to operate activities on public conservation land, between 2011/12 and 2016/17.

    • Over the period 2011/12 and 2016/17:
      • Recreational concessions decreased 12.5 percent (from 1,483 to 1,297) and the number of operators conducting recreational activities decreased 4.4 percent (from 1,089 to 1,041).

      • Non-recreational concessions increased 8.5 percent (from 3,289 to 3,568) and the number of operators conducting non-recreational activities also increased 7.9 percent (from 2,582 operators to 2,787 operators).

    • During the year ended June 2016/17:
      • Most recreational concessions were for guiding (45.0 percent or 581 concessions), operating aircrafts (16.9 percent or 218 concessions), and running events (7.8 percent or 100 concessions).

      • Most non-recreational concessions were for building structures (27.7 percent or 979 concessions), grazing animals (20.6 percent or 727 concessions), and access/easement activities like conveying electricity and telecommunications (16.4 percent or 581 concessions).

    Figure 1

    Note: We only report on the bookable units between 1 November and 30 April as not all Great Walks are bookable all year round. The number of available bed units of huts and campsites (the capacity) vary between Great Walks, which is shown in the next graph.

     
    Figure 2

    Note: We only report on the bookable units between 1 November and 30 April as not all Great Walks are bookable all year round. The number of available bed units of huts and campsites (the capacity) vary between Great Walks.

    Figure 3

    Note: We only report on the bookable units between 1 November and 30 April as not all Great Walks are bookable all year round. The occupancy rate is the percentage of booked beds by the number of available of bookable beds at the huts and campsites (the capacity), which varies between Great Walks.

    Figure 4

    Note: We do not report on concessions related to: marine activities, scientific research, and permits related to Wildlife Act 1953 authorisations, and to the handling of animals or fish. The length of a concession can vary from three months to 30 years. We do not include one-off (short-term) concessions of less than three months (which include low-impact activities), and short-term trials to establish the commercial viability of an activity.

    Figure 5

    Note: We do not report on concessions related to: marine activities, scientific research, and permits related to Wildlife Act 1953 authorisations, and to the handling of animals or fish. The length of a concession can vary from three months to 30 years. We do not include one-off (short-term) concessions of less than three months (which include low-impact activities), and short-term trials to establish the commercial viability of an activity.

    Figure 6

    Note: We do not report on concessions related to: marine activities, scientific research, and permits related to Wildlife Act 1953 authorisations, and to the handling of animals or fish. The length of a concession can vary from three months to 30 years. We do not include one-off (short-term) concessions of less than three months (which include low-impact activities), and short-term trials to establish the commercial viability of an activity.

     

    Definition and methodology

    Great Walks bookable units

    The Department of Conservation (DOC) manages walks, huts, and campsites across public conservation land to enable recreational opportunities. Nine walks are designated ‘Great Walks’: three are on the North Island (Waikaremoana Track, Tongariro Northern Circuit, Whanganui River Journey), five are on the South Island (Abel Tasman Coastal Track, Heaphy Track, Routeburn Track, Milford Track, Kepler Track) and one on Steward Island (Rakiura Track). Apart from the Waikaremoana Track (in the former Te Urewera National Park), all the Great Walks are in national parks. All tracks are in mountainous and high country areas, except for Abel Tasman Coast Track (along the coast) and Whanganui River Journey (along a river with overnight stays on campsites or huts).

    The Great Walks have an online booking system in place. The number of huts and campsites that can be booked online for a Great Walk ranges from five for the Rakiura Track and 24 for the Abel Tasman Coast Track. We only report on the bookable units (bed nights) between 1 November and 30 April (when all Great Walks are bookable) as only Abel Tasman Coast Track, Heaphy Track, and Lake Waikaremoana Track are bookable all year around. Bed nights are not the same as visitor numbers. The number of bed nights per person can vary depending on how many huts or campsites they stay at, and how many are available. The key findings include the periods between 2010/11 and 2016/17. Data are collected as part of the DOC’s online booking system.

    Commercial activity on public conservation land

    DOC is responsible for managing public conservation land. A concession (such as a permit, license, easement, or lease) is required for all commercial activities operating on public conservation land. A concession is an authorisation, usually with operating conditions and charges, to conduct private or commercial activity on public conservation land. These can be for non-recreation and recreational purposes. Concession activities can include small- to large-scale activities and vary in their pressure on their environment. A single concession holder (operator) can have either a recreational or non-recreational concession and operate multiple activities under one concession, but it is only classed under the primary activity.

    We report on the number of active concessions and operators (concessionaires) by activity in each financial year. We do not report on concessions related to: marine mammal watching and marine mammal research, scientific research, permits related to Wildlife Act 1953 authorisations, and handling of animals or fish. The length of a concession can vary from three months to 30 years. We do not include one-off (short-term) concessions of less than three months, which include low-impact activities, as well as short-term trials to establish the commercial viability of an activity.

    Some concessions are called ‘unidentified’ where the concession is a genuine ‘other’ activity that does not fit into the other categories. Note, while these unidentified concessions are shown in the figures and included to calculate total numbers of concessions and concessionaries, we exclude them from the proportions of each concession activity.

    Data quality

    We classified Use of conservation land as a case study.

    Relevance

    Image, Indirect relevance. This Use of public conservation land is an indirect measure of the ‘Resource use and management and other human activities’ topic.

    Accuracy

    Image, Medium accuracy. The accuracy of the data source is of medium quality.

    See Data quality information for more detail.

     

    Published 19 April 2018

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