Sam Judd
Comment on the environment from columnist Sam Judd

Sam Judd: How to bring back birdsong and blue cod

Kaka. Image / iStock
Kaka. Image / iStock

For over 30 years, my family has been lucky enough to escape to the Abel Tasman National Park for our summer holidays.

The area became a National Park in 1942 and since then, the natural processes of restoration have been underway. The Park's dramatic popularity has been a boon to sustainable tourism and a case study of what can be achieved when we work together.

A study commissioned by the Department of Conservation (DOC) in 2006 found that "the area attracted around 180,000 visitors in 2004, including 75,000 day walkers, 24,000 overnight trampers, 29,000 kayakers, 10,000 day boat users, and 10,000 staying at Totaranui, as well as 30,000 visits to the park by private boat, and 10,000 visitors using only the beaches and not the walking track."

The study claims that with $1.2 million of DOC spending, the park creates an output of $45 million, $11 million of which is household income and $18 million which is value-added. As someone who has witnessed the progress of this project for most of my life, I think that it has most certainly been money well spent.

Many of the jobs that this National Park supports are activities such as sea kayaking - which have a positive environmental impact because participants become connected to nature and this can influence their behaviour with regards to the environment.

Jacques Cousteau famously once said that "people protect what they love". It is plain to see that ecotourism establishes that love and provides gainful employment for people, some of whom would not last long wearing a suit in this summer heat on Queen Street.

For the last 12 years, I have been spearing fish nearby to the boundary of the Tonga Island Marine Reserve when I go there for holidays. I can happily say that the 'spillover effect' - where species that are not threatened by harvesting compete for habitat and move outside of the protected area - has meant that the fishing in our spot has been better and better every year since the reserve was established in 1993.

This year I was able to selectively take enough big blue cod to feed my family each dive - this was unheard of ten years ago - and to me, it proves the amazing benefits that a marine reserve can have.

As I was happily filleting my catch and putting a pot on the boil for a crayfish, I couldn't help but notice the resounding birdsong in the bush around me.

Since 2012, a privately-funded Trust - Project Janszoon - has been engaging with landowners, DOC and other community organisations such as the Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust to improve the ecology of the area.

Our neighbours and us had all been provided with 'rat cafes' which the small numbers of private landowners proudly maintain. This project has also seen the removal of huge amounts of wilding pine trees - giving the native bush the chance to take hold and give homes to the birds.

I think that we desperately need more collaborative projects such as this to maintain our natural areas and continue to create opporutnities for sustainable tourism.

What else do you think we could do to improve the tourism economy through partnerships? What other examples are there that people can aspire to?

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