The country’s top eco advisor warns Queenstown to keep cleaning up its act – or risk losing the “golden egg” of tourism.
As Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright submits independent reports and recommendations to the Beehive on green matters.
Before addressing a biosecurity conference in the resort yesterday, the Wellington-based expert highlighted long-term problems facing the Wakatipu.
These include water quality, urban growth, the spread of damaging wilding pines and increased flights to and from Queenstown Airport.
“Traditionally, people have seen the economy and the environment as being at loggerheads, as opposing forces,”
Dr Wright says. “But I’m very much of the view that the trade-off is actually between the short-term and the long-term.
“If you are interested in the economy you actually need to protect the environment in the long-term and that connection is most closely seen in tourism.
“Queenstown is one of the fastest-growing areas in NZ, but you don’t want to end up killing the goose that laid the golden egg.
“But that’s the problem with tourism the world over. Its very success can start to generate its failure.”
Dr Wright says the Wakatipu might look nice – but it faces serious environmental challenges.
“People think water quality wouldn’t be much of an issue in the Queenstown area, but it is.
“Lake Hayes used to be full of fish and now it has algal blooms in the summer. But it has been farmed around the edge for a long time so it’s not surprising you’ve had fertiliser end up in the lake.
“I have also been quite shocked at the spread of wilding pines which disrupt the natural ecosystem.
“We have to decide as a country whether we are going to get on top of these trees or not because they are far more promiscuous than first realised.”