(PR.co.nz) Milford Sound is New Zealand’s most popular tourist spot. Most visitors to the South Island will make a trip to the fiord for an up-close look at what Rudyard Kipling once called “The Eighth Wonder of the World” – and their numbers are ever increasing. In 2012 about 457,000 tourists visited Milford Sound, by 2017 they nearly doubled to 875,000. In 2019 estimates put the number of visitors to Milford Sound at over one million. While tourism throughout New Zealand is growing at 5-6 percent per annum, visitors to the Sound increase at 12-15 percent each year.
Growing numbers of tourists brings both opportunity and risk. The current facilities at Milford Sound are already bursting at the seams and need to be upgraded to handle a larger influx of visitors. Although the tourist numbers are impressive, it should be noted that the vast majority of visitors to Milford Sound are there on day-trips from Queenstown, and will only stay for a couple of hours. Efforts must be made to encourage tourists to spend more time in the area and explore all it has to offer, rather than just come and go on day-long bus trips.
In addition to upgrading visitor amenities and attractions, steps must be taken to ensure that tourism development efforts are sustainable in the long-term and doesn’t harm the local environment or overwhelm nearby communities.
The Southland District Council has created the Milford Opportunities Project, an initiative that combines all the agencies and stakeholders who have a vested interest in protecting conservation values as well as improving the local economies for communities in and around Milford Sound. The Project contain groups as diverse as Ngāi Tahu, various local councils, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), the Ministry for Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE) and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
The first order of business is to find ways to get visitors to spend more time in Milford Sound and its surrounding areas instead of shuttling in and out by bus. There are plenty of activities and sights in the Southland, and tourists to the Sound should be encouraged to spend more time exploring the region and all it has to offer. This also has the added benefit of spreading out visits to Milford Sound. Right now there is a rush of visitors between morning and mid-afternoon, leaving the site mostly vacant for the rest of the day.
Currently experts from the Project are in fact-finding mode, visiting the sites and gathering the data they need to create a long-term plan for developing Milford Sound. One thing everyone agrees on is that whatever plan they come up with, it must be economically beneficial and environmentally sustainable.
Media Release on 30 April 2018
Richard Abernethy, Fiordland Expedtions