"Pivot?", "I thought you said parrot."
With the borders closed, ‘pivot’ has become the (overused) catch-phrase for tourism in New Zealand. We all had to look left and right and sniff out a living somewhere or other. With international visitors making up more than 95% of our client base we needed to look for opportunities within the domestic tourism market and also outside of tourism.
Hiking New Zealand, with our teams of fit skilled outdoors people aligned perfectly with the government’s Kaimahi for Nature initiative which forms part of the wider Jobs for Nature initiative. This initiative offered us the opportunity to work alongside the Department of Conservation (DoC). Our guides, some who have environmental qualifications, made us an obvious choice for DoC. Since the beginning of 2021, we have been deploying 9-day missions into amazing and remote areas of Arthur’s Pass National Park (Southern Alps) to protect the critically endangered kākāriki karaka/orange-fronted parakeet. Our teams on the ground are supported by our existing operations and management staff. This pivot coupled with our continued domestic market is keeping business humming along until we welcome international visitors again. Principle tasks include trapping pests and monitoring parakeet populations. Pivot to parrot!
Teach a man to fish
The Jobs for Nature (Mahi mō te Taiao) is a $1.2 billion programme to provide employment in conservation for communities. Although COVID-19 is the catalyst, the vision is that many of these 11,000 nature-based jobs, and the skilled people it produces, will endure beyond the current crisis. It’s the old proverb…” Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” creating skills and offering enterprise funding, especially in rural New Zealand, is the clever bit here.
Jobs for Nature is also supercharging the conservation efforts of the Department of Conservation, iwi and hapū, councils, and the wider community to implement kaitiakitanga (guardianship) by controlling pests and weeds, restoring wetlands, and returning native bush, rivers, and streams to health.
For us, it has raised the question of whether Hiking New Zealand wants to return completely to the status quo when tourism recovers. This lull in tourism has ignited calls for more regenerative tourism in the future – where the industry leaves a place better than it was before. As to what sort of uptake of this approach there will be with tourism recovery Dan says “That’s a matter for speculation, but what’s certain for us is that Jobs for Nature has provided an opportunity for us to re-vision and change what we do."
Hiking New Zealand has always been low impact and has always made significant financial contributions to conservation projects. Now we are making hands-on differences day-to-day for the environment and also enabling our guiding team to have rewarding year-round work in the outdoors. We are helping to secure the recovery of a vulnerable taonga (highly prized) species, and it feels like a natural direction for us. And with this newfound capacity to work regeneratively, we can now involve guests in hands-on conservation too if they wish. Guides can unfurl New Zealand’s natural and cultural history and enrich visitors’ experiences through the process and enjoyment of making a difference, offsetting impacts, and developing a lasting connection with this land and its people. Truly regenerative.
Photo Credit: www.inki.co.nz