The guardians of one of New Zealand's most photographed churches say it is being overrun by tourists and they want visitors to chip in.

The Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo now attracts 300,000 visitors a year and there are issues with security, safety, rubbish and hygiene.

Church committee chairman Phil Brownie said the church was a victim of its popularity.

"We desperately want people to visit and have a wonderful experience but it's been lost and gone the other way."


The 80-year-old stone church had paid guides to answer questions and ensure there was no damage to the property. It was so busy they could not even grow grass in the grassed areas.

There were also increasing numbers of freedom campers staying in the carpark.

Brownie said about 250,000 daytime visitors came each year and up to 50,000 visitors in the evenings, mainly for night-time photography.

The church this year banned photography inside because of crowding and congestion. Brownie said church members wanted it regarded as "an operating parish and a place of worship" and not just a tourist attraction, and that it be treated as a place of reverence by all who visit. Most who visited did not make donations.

"If everyone who came in donated a gold coin we wouldn't have to eat into reserves."

Tourism Export Council of New Zealand chief executive Lesley Immink said she was saddened by what was happening at the church and wanted to help.

"While this is not necessarily an example of when tourism goes bad, it is certainly an opportunity to assist the community in making it a more sustainable and memorable experience for the locals and international visitors alike."