A new initiative to develop a sustainable strategy to cope with booming tourism at Auckland’s Waiheke Island launches this week.
Project ‘Forever Waiheke’ aims to identify the impacts of tourism on the island and monitor them for five years in order to develop a strategy to cope with more than a million visitors a year the island attracts.
The project will be run under the auspices of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, as part of an international network of sustainable tourism projects.
Areas for monitoring include the impacts on infrastructure such as traffic, ferry and bus services, and water supply and quality. It will also record how satisfied residents are with changes to the island.
Tensions over the effects of booming tourism on the popular island boiled over last April with residents blocking double decker bus tours operated by Fullers.
The initiative is being led by a working group of local representatives from the Waiheke Local Board and Waiheke Tourism Forum, conservationists and environmentalists, developers with support from iwi Ngāti Paoa and Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED).
The working group would also be supported by three tourism researchers and academics from Otago University’s Tourism Department – Associate Professors Brent Lovelock and Sebastian Filep, and senior lecturer Anna Carr (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Ruanui) – to help develop the strategy.
Auckland Council said: “Since 2016, the impacts of rapidly increasing tourism on Waiheke’s natural, built and community environments have created challenges and more evident threats to the sustainability of the island’s taonga and special character.”
The new data would be valuable to council, local businesses and tourism operators as well as community groups and island residents, “to better understand how to manage tourism impacts for the continued well-being of Waiheke’s environment, resources and residents”.
Project ‘Forever Waiheke’ will launch on Friday with two events – a community workshop at Surfdale Hall and a fundraiser at Waiheke Cinema, which will screen The Venice Syndrome, a film that profiles the long-term effects of tourism on Venetian residents.