The last two years have seen most New Zealanders getting out in nature.
This has provided valuable insights into how New Zealanders enjoy and value their great outdoors says the Department of Conservation as it releases its latest visitor insights report.
The report looks at visitor numbers, attitudes and behaviour at popular sites, huts, campsites and walking tracks over summer, from December 1 2021 to February 28 2022.
Over February 2022, 73 per cent of New Zealanders visited the outdoors compared to 84 per cent over February 2021.
This drop reflects the Covid-19 outbreak, including Omicron, with some New Zealanders staying home, says DOC’s Heritage and Visitors Director Tim Bamford.
“While Omicron and border restrictions meant overall fewer people visited conservation areas over summer 2021/22 compared with the year before, these places remain an important part of many New Zealanders lives.”
“Three quarters of us still headed outdoors. The top benefit cited by New Zealanders in getting outdoors was ‘taking time out to enjoy the peace and quiet’, suggesting a greater focus on mental and emotional wellbeing. The second and third benefits sought were ‘enjoyment and fun’ and ‘physical exercise and fitness’.
“Unsurprisingly, time pressures mean we mostly like to get out for short walks and to beaches near to where we live. And we mostly stay in huts or campgrounds at weekends or during school holidays,” says Tim.
Camping was a popular option, with more than 100,000 New Zealanders camping across New Zealand, down 5 per cent compared to last year.
Many people camped in Northland, Coromandel and the upper South Island. Great Walks also had less demand but were still popular, with 40,000 New Zealanders walking them compared to 48,000 last year.
Many New Zealanders who live near or regularly visit protected areas think visitors improve the local economy.
"However around four out of ten visitors to protected areas noticed damage from others," says Tim.
“Over the last two years people taking dogs where they are not permitted has been an issue, as has litter and human waste.
“We’ve also seen poor boating and four-wheel driving behaviour around wildlife and in protected areas.”
“With borders reopening, it’s really important we visit the outdoors responsibly to limit our impact and safeguard our natural environments and wildlife for future generations.”
“DOC will look to foster New Zealand’s current increased connection to the outdoors, into the future, through prioritising affordable, accessible and well-loved activities such as short walks, family camping and heritage sites.”
Minimise your impact outdoors by following DOC’s Tiaki Care Code