Sustainable Summits 2016 | Key points for the Dept. of Conservation by Don Bogie

Key points for the Dept. of Conservation, from Sustainable Summits conference held at Aoraki Mount Cook 8-11 August 2016

Spiritual Values of the mountains and community connection

  • The importance of mountains to Iwi and the mountain users, from a spiritual perspective.
  • Local communities may feel alienated from their Parks as visitor numbers rise.

Visitor pressures on alpine areas

  • New Zealand does not have the same pressures on its high alpine areas from climbers as other places. New Zealand’s pressures are in the front country where increasingly large numbers of visitors come to see the mountains and from aircraft based sightseeing and landings.
  • Worth keeping an eye on whether alpine guiding will attract more users particularly lower skilled people who want an alpine experience that includes summiting prominent mountains such as Aspiring. This has the potential to put pressure on some places.

Dealing with Human waste

  • Human waste lasts for a long time in glacial environments. It eventually comes out somewhere and will pollute downstream waters.
  • Carry out policies for human waste at high use sites is about both the environmental concerns and preserving the experience for others. An opportunity exists at present to use carry out at the new Mid Tasman NZAC hut.
  • As use increases in alpine places and in the busy mountain front country tourist sites costs of dealing with human waste will go up. There is a need to get more innovative with how this issue is dealt with.

Climate change and associated rapid geological changes

  • As climate change and glacier changes happen tourism operations will want to be able to find different locations as access changes and new opportunities for different products occur.
  • Access to some traditional climbing places will get harder and the alpine climbing seasons timing will change so routes can still be climbed on snow.
  • Weeds being more likely to establish on disturbed ground post any rockfall or debris flows particularly post wide scale landslides associated with a major earthquake.
    Hazards to visitors from Alpine Fault and increased rockfall activity
  • The likelihood of a major earthquake on the Alpine fault at 30% chance in the next 50 years is 0.6% per annum or 3% in the next 5 years. It will be very disruptive to road access and other infrastructure. It will be followed by years of increased debris flows onto alluvial flans which will create further ongoing issues.
  • In the event of a large earthquake on the Alpine Fault serious risks to visitors on Public Conservation Land will occur in places where cosiesmic landslides are likely to occur, such as Milford Sound, Aoraki, Fox and Franz Glacier access and large areas of the backcountry.

Mountain Huts

  • Climate change, rapid geological change, earthquake risks and increasing rockfall hazards are all affecting the viability and safety of a number of current hut sites, it is likely to get worse. There are fewer safe sites available now than there had been in the past.
  • Where sites have limited lifespans smaller relocatable huts may become a viable option.

Critical issues

  • How to ensure that the spiritual values of mountains to Iwi are not impacted by the actions of the Department or the visitors to the mountains?
  • How to ensure that local communities stay connected to the mountains?
  • How to ensure our planning (Management and operational) can handle the increased tourism growth in a timely manner that also preserves the values of the mountains and experiences of visitors?
  • How to ensure our planning (Management and operational) can handle the changes to alpine access affecting alpine climbers and tourism operators in a timely manner that also preserves the values of the mountains and experiences of visitors?
  • How to ensure that we understand the visitor safety issues from major earthquakes in the Southern Alps so that we can take appropriate actions both leading up to and post a major event.
  • How to work with guiding companies and other concessionaires so that they can be the models of the behaviours we want all visitors to do.
  • How to put more effort into developing best practice so we can get the longer term benefits from doing things better. (i.e things like toilets and alpine hut design)

Don Bogie
Senior Advisor
Business Assurance
16 August 2016

Mt Aspiring from the Snow Farm road, Cardrona Valley
Some busy light and clouds lurking to the west while descending the Snow Farm Lodge road in early Sept. 2016. That’s the big “A” to the left ~ Mt Aspiring…
photo by Southern Light