A small South Island town has taken a stand for sustainable tourism with the launch of a new initiative.
All tourism operators in the seaside town of Mārahau, Nelson, have united under a new initiative launched today, called the Mārahau Pledge.
Every single Mārahau-based tourism operator, from canyoning guides to water taxis, has signed up for the pledge, which indicates an active commitment to care for the environment in three key ways.
All signatories must be independently certified as zero-carbon businesses by Ekos, agree to share knowledge with fellow businesses to advance sustainability and give a portion of ticket profits to biodiversity projects in the area.
If you have walked through the Abel Tasman National Park, chances are you've passed through the small coastal settlement of Mārahau, on the way there.
For those who visit the town, the new pledge means any local tourism operator you choose will be zero-carbon and donate a portion of your ticket towards a local conservation project.
Johny O'Donnell, a spokesperson for the project, said the pledge aimed to protect the region's natural environment and support local people.
"As people who live, work and play here, we have a collective responsibility to care for and respect the environment," he said.
Fiona Wilson, Chief Executive of Nelson Regional Development Agency, which helped create the pledge, said it was a win-win for visitors too.
"People are really keen to travel again but there has been a fundamental shift in
awareness about the impacts of tourism on local communities and the environment," she said.
"Post-Covid it's definitely not back to business as usual for the visitor sector, we all know that there have to be changes."
O'Donnell agreed. While every visitor was valuable to the local economy, he said it was important to 'get the balance right' between recovery and sustainability.
The pledge was just one of the ways the region is trying to strike this balance.
"A key focus for our Destination Management Plan is to encourage visitors to care more and do more for our region while they are here," she said.
"We know there is a growing demand for light footprint travel and last year launched New Zealand's first Zero Carbon Itinerary to demonstrate how easy it is for visitors to travel more consciously in Nelson Tasman."
The Mārahau Pledge is another way visitors could have confidence that their experience would not have a net negative impact on the environment.
Mārahau may be a small village of 200 residents, but it is a popular one for tourists according to Renee Thomas, (Ngāti Rārua) kaitiaki of Wakatū Incorporation's whenua at Mārahau.
"Thousands of people visit, particularly on their way to experience the Abel Tasman,"
"The Mārahau Pledge is a recognition that large numbers of visitors do have an impact on the environment, and that the visitor sector is taking responsibility to make a practical contribution to the long-term wellbeing of te taiao in Mārahau."
Currently, only businesses running ticketed experiences from Mārahau into Abel Tasman Park have signed the pledge.
Plans are underway to explore how other businesses like restaurants and hotels, can take part.
The Mārahau Pledge
This is our pledge to Mārahau.
This is our pledge for the future.
We commit to care for Mārahau, its surrounds and each other.
To be aware of and take responsibility for our impact.
To inspire protection through connection.
To tread lightly and explore slowly.
To regenerate our land, air, water and all living things.
To give back to this place that gives so much to us.
To care more and explore more.
To be good ancestors.
Nei tō mātou oati ki a Mārahau
Nei te oati mō anamata
Ko Mārahau kei runga, kei raro, kei roto, kei waho. Tātou ki a tatou.
Kia rongo, kia mōhio, kia mārama ki ō tātou tapuwae waro
Kia whakaohoohotia te pare i te herenga tangata
Kia āta tuhuratia.
Kia tipu, kia rea ngā koha ō rātou mā.
Kia taukohatia ngā hua o Mārahau.
Kia tōmenetia i roto i te manaaki.
Kia tika te tūāpapa mo āpōpō
How to take care of the environment when visiting Mārahau and the Abel Tasman:
• Anything you bring in with you, take out - this includes plastic, glass and food waste.
• Respect the plants and wildlife. the only thing from the Park you should be taking is
• Our native birds are not adapted to human food, so please don't feed them, no matter how cute they are!
• You can also take the Tiaki promise: Care for land, sea and nature, treading lightly and leaving no trace.
• Travel safely, showing care and consideration for all
• Respect culture, travelling with an open heart and mind.