Lake Matheson
Image: Miles Holden | ©


View reports, research and analysis from DOC about outdoor recreation in New Zealand.

2023: Paparoa Track Great Walk - visitor use review

Paparoa Track Great Walk - visitor use review (PDF, 1,824K)

The purpose of this Monitoring and Evaluation Report for 2020/21, 2021/22 is to:

  • report to the West Coast Conservation Board against the Paparoa National Park Management Plan (PNPMP) milestones Section 5.4, Table 8 milestones 3-6
  • inform Department of Conservation decisions on future investment and use of the Paparoa Track.

2022: Giving back to nature

Giving back to nature: Insights from the Queen Charlotte Track (PDF, 2,520K)

This report draws on qualitative research interviews with visitors to Queen Charlotte Track during the 2020-2021 summer. It finds two groups of visitors: ‘Spectators of nature’ and ‘Participants in nature’ and looks at how they might give back to nature.

2021: Resilience through nature

Resilience through nature (PDF, 1,699K)

Qualitative research into New Zealanders’ participation in the outdoors within a COVID-19 context.

2021: New Zealanders and the environment

New Zealanders and the environment (PDF, 2,799K)

A snapshot of New Zealanders’ perceptions of the environment, biodiversity and conservation. 

2021: Heritage and Visitor Strategy

DOC’s Heritage and Visitor Strategy guides our work to sustainably manage visitors to protect and enhance the values of New Zealand’s natural, cultural and historic heritage.

2021: Tourism and Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui

The Queen Charlotte Track experience and attitudes towards giving back to nature (PDF, 5.053K)

Interviews with visitors to the Queen Charlotte Track explored the experience, visitors’ feelings of ‘connection to nature’ and attitudes towards ‘giving back to nature’.

Tourism and regenerating place: insights from Queen Charlotte Sound/Tōtaranui (PDF, 3,379K)

An analysis of interviews to explore how tourism post-Covid might evolve, and a project scope for a destination management plan that is focused on the regeneration and rehabilitation of the Sounds.

2020: New Zealanders in the Outdoors survey

New Zealanders in the outdoors: Domestic customer segmentation research (PDF, 5,770K)

The New Zealanders in the Outdoors survey, undertaken prior to COVID-19 travel restrictions in New Zealand, gleaned comments and responses from about 3,800 people with a focus on participation in the outdoors.

This document provides a snapshot of New Zealanders’ experiences in the outdoors. It is a summary of findings from customer research undertaken by the New Zealand-based customer research and evaluation agency UMR from September 2018 to February 2020.

A core focus of DOC’s work is to facilitate and encourage people’s access to and connection with New Zealand’s great outdoors – our natural and cultural heritage.

The survey helps build DOC’s understanding of how and why people use the great outdoors so we can best cater to their needs.

Customer segments

The research has helped identify six key customers segments that show differences in how New Zealanders engage with the outdoors including who is doing what. Four were identified as being more active – Mindful Actives (21%), Social Actives (21%), Enthusiastic Actives (14%) and Stimulation Actives (11%). Two were identified as less active segments, Home-Close Actives (13%) required outdoor places that were easier to access – especially for those with mobility issues, and Other Things Actives (20%) had limited engagement with the outdoors preferring to do other things.

Preferred outdoor activities

The survey and analysis also revealed preferred outdoors experiences, with short walks (less than three hours) the leader, enjoyed by 91% of respondents. Picnics and barbecues were enjoyed by 82% of respondents, followed by sightseeing (81%), visiting cultural or historic heritage sites (66%) and day walks/hike (52%) and swimming (52%).


Respondents were asked to describe the key benefits of spending time outdoors: 41% referenced their mental health as a motivation, 35% referenced physical health, and 34% cited a desire for connection with nature. Getting away from everyday routine and reflecting was also considered important.

2019: Visitors as advocates

Visitors as advocates (PDF, 2,330K)
A review of the relationship between participation in outdoor recreation and support for conservation and the environment.

2016: International visitor data

New international visitors survey opens opportunities
This report presents analysis of international visitor data in relation to New Zealand's national parks, including differences in expenditure between those who do and, do not visit national parks. Data is derived from the International Visitors Survey conducted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), which is updated quarterly and this report will be updated to reflect this.

2015: Evaluating visitor awareness of natural hazards and warning messages

Evaluating aspects of hazard awareness, safety message effectiveness and behavioural compliance among visitors to the Glaciers, Westland National Park, New Zealand (PDF, 1,537K)
This report presents the results of a survey and evaluation of visitor awareness of natural hazards and warning messages, including their reactions to safety messages proposed for the Glacier valley walks in Westland National Park.

2014: Identifiying booking preferences of visitors

Identifying preferences for booked DOC facilities in New Zealand (PDF, 418K)
This report identifies how DOC can best meet the needs of current and potential visitors using booked or non-booked (free for all – but could become bookable in the future) accommodation.

2013: Kahurangi National Park mountain biking trial 

In December 2010 DOC carried out a partial review of the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan. This allowed for a three year trial of mountain biking on the Heaphy Track (on a seasonal basis between 1 May and 30 September), the Kill Devil Track and the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat Track (all year round) in the Upper Takaka Valley.

The subsequent DOC report published in September 2013 supports mountain biking continuing on the Heaphy and the other two tracks. The report is made up of the three documents below. 

Heaphy Track Mountain Bike Trial 2011-2013 report (PDF, 4,538K)
This report recommends consideration be given to extending the Heaphy Track mountain bike season to run from 1 March to 30 November, excluding Easter, when the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan is next reviewed which would allow for public comment on the proposal.

Flora to Barron Saddle & Kill Devil Mountain Bike Trial 2011-2013 report (PDF, 3906K)
This report recommends allowing mountain biking to continue on the Flora to Barron Saddle and Kill Devil tracks.

Kahurangi National Park Mountain bike trial 2011-2013 Resource document (PDF, 16,107K)
This resource document includes statistics, visitor numbers and background information that supports the decision making process around the recommendations.

2013: Regional tourism trends and opportunities – Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki

The reports below were prepared to support long term strategic planning for Taranaki Maunga, Tongariro National Park, Whanganui National Park and Taupo Moana. They provide guidance for DOC and stakeholders on future demands for recreation in region.

Regional tourism report July 2013 (PDF, 3,633K)
This report considers relevant global, national and regional trends in nature based tourism, leisure preferences, cultural tourism and outdoor recreation. It also explores how each of the destinations in the Central North Island link to each other in terms of issues and opportunities for tourism and recreation.

Visitor trends report (PDF, 834K)
This report outlines the key trends affecting recreation and tourism both nationally and in Tongariro Whanganui Taranaki Conservancy. It provides supplementary information to support the Regional tourism report above.

2012: Bibliography of research on visitors to public conservation land

A bibliography of research on visitors to public conservation areas in New Zealand 1995-2010 (PDF, 633K)
This bibliography includes references to literature on visitor demand, visitor participation and visitor segmentation as it relates to public conservation areas in New Zealand.

2011 reports

Poulter Valley Mountain Bike Trial (PDF, 3,170K)
This document outlines the monitoring programme used to consider the effects of mountain biking in the Poulter Valley, Arthurs Pass National Park.

A synthesis and gap analysis of public conservation area visitor research in New Zealand 1995-2010 (PDF, 500K)
This report reviews literature on outdoor recreation and tourism (nature-based, eco- and heritage tourism), and identifies key gaps in knowledge that future research needs to address.

The effects of noise on recreationists and wildlife in NZ's natural areas: a literature review (PDF, 793K)
This report summarises international literature on the nature of noise impacts, factors that influence them, responses to noise and key theoretical concepts. It critically discusses the range of methods available to measure noise and its effects. It also details the methodologies used in New Zealand literature and describes their application.

Southland public participation GIS study (PDF, 2978K)
This report provides a summary of the key findings of a pilot study that collected public values, experiences and development preferences for conservation land within the Southland region, through a self-administered online mapping and questionnaire method. It complements a similar study and report for Otago (see below).

Otago public participation GIS study (PDF, 1020K)
This report provides a summary of the key findings of a pilot study that collected public values, experiences and development preferences for conservation land within the Otago region, through a self-administered online mapping and questionnaire method. It complements a similar study and report for Southland (see above).

2010 reports

Southland recreation demand survey (PDF, 755K)
This report assesses community demand for recreation opportunities in the Southalnd region.

Attitudes towards commercial recreation on public conservation lands (PDF, 483K)
This report reviews the 'state of knowledge' about the attitudes of visitors toward the provision of commercial recreation services on public conservation lands.

2009 reports

Recreation opportunities review in the Wellington Conservancy: Stage 1: Qualitative research | Stage 2: Quantitative survey (PDF, 358K) 
These reports identify the range of activities undertaken in parks in the greater Wellington region, and satisfaction with existing parks and reserves.

Vehicle crime at outdoor recreation and tourist destinations: prevalence, impact and solutions (PDF, 738K)
This report presents the results of research on the prevalence and impact of vehicle crime at outdoor recreation and tourist destinations.

2006: Review of camping opportunities

Review of camping opportunities in New Zealand
This report reviews the availability of family-friendly camping opportunities for New Zealanders, particularly in coastal areas.

Back to top