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Aoraki/Mt Cook visitor numbers hit 1m mark

Radio New Zealand logo Radio New Zealand 3 days ago

Aoraki Mount Cook National park, Canterbury region, South Island, New Zealand. © Getty Images Aoraki Mount Cook National park, Canterbury region, South Island, New Zealand. Visitor numbers to Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park have hit more than one million for the first time.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage announced the record annual visits after releasing summer visitor data today.

The data shows many of the top visitor sites had a bumper season despite international visitor arrivals slowing down, with 3.8 million arrivals in the year ending January.

Visits to Rakiura/Stewart Island's Ulva Island were also up 76 percent on last year with a total of 17,000 visits and visits to Northland's Tāne Mahuta walk up by 44 percent, with 152,000 visits.

At Aoraki, the increase comes after significant investment in visitor facilities. Since 2010, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has spent $16.5 million on improvements including a new visitor centre, road repairs, tracks, and more toilets. About $122,000 was also spent to repair the popular Hooker Valley track after weather damage in March.

Milford Sound, Franz Josef and Tongariro Alpine Crossing experienced slower growth, while Rangitoto Summit track, Tunnel Beach track and Ruakuri walk were the only places to record a decrease in visitors on the year before.

Ms Sage said the rapid rate of growth had put pressure on some of the country's more iconic places.

"With these increased visitor numbers, a major part of the government's proactive approach to managing tourism is to encourage visitors to enjoy and respect New Zealand," she said.

She said the government was planning for growth so visitor experiences could be maintained, but not at the expense of the environment.

DOC is continuing to increase New Zealand's conservation effort through targeted biodiversity work and collaborative projects like Predator Free 2050 and Te Manahuna Aoraki.

"The soon-to-be implemented international visitor conservation and tourism levy will help ensure tourism contributes to protecting and restoring nature which we all depend on." Ms Sage said.

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