Wanganui Chronicle

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

THROUGHOUT our region we have an abundance of spectacular features from rivers and mountains to beaches and forests.

Our country is renowned for its stunning landscapes and native wildlife, and it's a significant part of what draws thousands of visitors to our shores each year, which is great for our economy.

To help sustain this growth and our burgeoning tourism industry, it's really important we invest in the very conservation areas that make visiting our part of the world so appealing.

In this year's Budget, the Government is making a commitment to invest $76 million on new and upgraded tourism infrastructure for the Department of Conservation, a funding boost that is part of a $178m tourism infrastructure package.

The new funding will allow DOC to better manage the impact of visitor growth, while also protecting our biodiversity and threatened species. The DOC estate is a well-known, much-loved asset and the new funding will help upgrade and develop tourist facilities, as well as expand the Great Walks network.

The Great Walks network of premier multi-day tracks allows visitors to safely access and enjoy our most spectacular and diverse landscapes.

The Whanganui Journey is a premier track that passes through a national park and down the mighty Whanganui River. The Tongariro Northern Circuit, which is on our doorstep and includes the very popular Tongariro Crossing day walk, is another fantastic part of the network - and it's soon to be expanded, with two new Great Walks being added to the mix.

There's also a plan to develop a network of Great Short Walks and Great Day Walks. This will give people more options to enjoy New Zealand's beautiful parks and conservation areas.

Developing new locations will ease pressure on tourism hot spots, shift awareness to paths less travelled and, in particular, better share the regional economic benefits of tourism.

The Cycle Trails have certainly demonstrated the ability of regional tourism initiatives to create new business opportunities in rural and provincial New Zealand.

It's important to note we're not only working to enhance the quality of visitor experience for domestic and international visitors but also focusing on supporting and protecting our captivating natural environment and native species.

In addition to the $76m we've committed to tourism infrastructure, the Government recently announced $21.3m for the Battle For Our Birds, $2.8m for a sealion threat-management plan and we released the first threatened-species strategy.

It is a result of economic growth under National's fiscal management that we are in a position to invest in this invaluable sector.

DOC is being funded to spend more than ever before on natural heritage and recreation work, and there's also more conservation work being done in New Zealand now than at any other time in our history.

This new funding demonstrates our commitment to supporting a thriving economy and a burgeoning tourism industry, while at the same time protecting our outstanding areas of conservation.