Sustainable tourism growth is the core of the Government's new strategy announced today at Trenz, the industry's biggest and most influential trade event.

For the first time, Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage joined Tourism Minister Kelvin Davis to announce together the New Zealand-Aotearoa Tourism Strategy.

Sage said tourism could be a champion for sustainability and restoring the environment.

"It is my responsibility to help ensure that we have a sustainable visitor industry that protects and cherishes this natural and cultural heritage for its own sake and for future generations."

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She said businesses needed to contribute to giving nature a helping hand.

Eugenie Sage said New Zealand's natural and cultural heritage was at the heart of the tourism industry. Photo / Stephen Parker
Eugenie Sage said New Zealand's natural and cultural heritage was at the heart of the tourism industry. Photo / Stephen Parker

"We need to help restore our biodiversity because we have more than 4000 species that are threatened or facing extinction.

"That's what the tourism strategy is all about, helping to protect nature, which is at the hearts of our success as a country and as an industry."

Tourism continues to be New Zealand's largest export earner, contributing $39 billion to the economy annually and employing more than 200,000 people.

At the announcement, Davis described the industry as a vital part of lives in regions and within communities.

"The Government is determined to put the long-term wellbeing of New Zealanders and the environment at the heart of what we do.

"Sustainable tourism growth has the potential to significantly boost our economy, to bring greater prosperity to our regions and improve New Zealanders' quality of life and wellbeing alongside protecting and championing our environment."

He said with conservation at the core of the strategy, growth would now need to be created in ecological limits and also consider the impact of climate change.

"We can't do this alone, we need everybody, we need treaty partners we need central and local government, the tourism industry and New Zealand to get involved.

"We must build meaningful partnerships with one another."

Steve Chadwick and Te Taru White on their partnership prior to the announcement for sustainable growth. Photo / Stephen Parker
Steve Chadwick and Te Taru White on their partnership prior to the announcement for sustainable growth. Photo / Stephen Parker

At a panel discussion prior to the announcement, Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick and Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White spoke on their partnership between local government and iwi.

"A few years ago a visiting international tourism expert told us that Rotorua had what many destinations around the world would give their eyes and teeth for ... all we needed to do was join the dots," Chadwick said.

"This [partnership] was established in 2015 ... it allows us to work and talk together on projects of huge significance to our district.

"Our district's future in all things, including tourism, is dependant on our ability as a community to express tatau tatau, when together and the way that we live and the way we do our business."

White said although it could be a challenging journey working together, it was a "no brainer" that Te Arawa was involved in creating authentic experiences in the city.

"When our visitors from afar come here to enjoy what we have to offer in Rotorua, it will be authentic and embedded in the community and the people of this place."