Submitted 29 August 2008: The NZCA welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the SPARC Outdoor recreation review which looks at how to maximise the value of outdoor recreation to New Zealand and New Zealanders.

Submission date: 29 August 2008
Submitted to: Sport and Recreation Review

  1. The NZCA welcomes this opportunity to contribute to the discussion towards an Outdoor Recreation Strategy for New Zealand. It considers that the challenges set out on pages 7 and 8 of the discussion document provide a good summary of the context within which the strategy is being prepared.
  2. The NZCA endorses the need for more research in all the areas outlined as good data about participation are vital for sound policy development and planning.

    Executive summary

  3. The NZCA would like to see the following principles for outdoor recreation reflected in the Outdoor Recreation Strategy.
    • A range of opportunities across the country and within regions.
    • Places managed in accord with conservation values present and appropriate carrying capacity for the site
    • Places managed according to different standards, having regard to the most common visitor group.
    • Wilderness areas with no facilities and remote places managed with minimal or modest facilities.
    • Some areas aircraft, vehicle and firearms free.
    • Motorised recreation confined to limited areas where conservation values not at risk
    • Some urban and close to urban sites maintained in a state of wildness to enable people to experience largely unmodified environments within a familiar setting and without having to travel far.
    • Priority to provide outdoor recreation opportunities generally close to urban populations
    • Planning undertaken, inclusive of public consultation, to identify how places will be managed, to establish certainty, to manage expectations, prevent ad hoc decision making which can change a visitor experience and displace some in favour of others, and encourage collaborative, complementary and integrated approaches across providing agencies.

  4. The NZCA’s comments to make upon the text of the discussion document are set out below.

General comment

4.1 There is some reliance on “the sector” to promote and facilitate, apparently to members. Because of the brevity of the definition of “outdoor recreation” in the Outdoor Recreation Review Initial Findings Report, it is hard to tell where the “outdoor recreation sector” begins and ends. The language of the report and the discussion paper seems to include such diverse interests as central and local government, landowners, trampers, climbers, skiers, mountain bikers, hunters, fishers, non-competitive swimmers, horse trekkers, partly motorised recreationists, mountain guides, clubs, federations of clubs, adventure tourism operators, industry advocacy bodies, industry training organisations, bush and mountain craft skills training organisations, school teachers and tertiary teachers of outdoor skills. The preceding list is not exhaustive. The report assumes that these diverse interests can be regarded as a “sector,” with homogeneity greater than the differences between its various constituents. The report does not make a case for this assumption, which underlies many of the recommendations. Can the “sector” be effective as promoters and facilitators in such circumstances

4.2 New Zealanders are no longer great joiners to clubs and associations. This is evidenced by the research cited on page 9 which identifies that more NZers engage in passive outdoor activities, with the most popular being picnicking, going to the beach, wildlife viewing, scenic drives and short walks. These activities are generally done in a small group, such as family and friends.

4.3 A strategy to change people’s behaviour needs to engage as delivery agents potential promoters and facilitators who are not perceived to be “the converted” or potentially overwhelming to those prepared to test the water but only in a way that they consider to be non-threatening..

A Healthy State for outdoor recreation

4.4 The NZCA supports the goal of more people participating more regularly in outdoor activities but of itself does not consider “more” is necessarily better and that “enjoyable” (page 16 reads “more people participating more regularly in enjoyable outdoor activities”) is not a good measure. What may be enjoyable to some may not be enjoyable to others. Also what might ordinarily be considered enjoyable can be impaired by the activities (and enjoyment) of others.

4.5 The NZCA also considers that while there should be equity of choice and opportunity, there should not be equitable access – that will depend on individual interests, fitness and capability. The NZCA supports a range of opportunities. In some places number are not controlled, access is facilitated, the site is hardened, natural values are degraded, and social conflict occurs. In other places access is hard, facilities are modest, naturalness is maintained and social interaction is low.

4.6 The NZCA considers that there needs to be a balance between numbers participating, quality of experience and protection of the environment.

4.6.1 The NZCA agrees that “Participants require…high quality experiences” (page 17). However, “high quality” can be variously interpreted. “High quality” needs to relate to the target visitor group’s expectations. Even in the front country this can mean a high degree of naturalness of environment or a low level of social interaction. During the consultations by the Department of Conservation over its Recreational Opportunities Review some years ago, submissions were received from those traditionally considered to be front country users asking the Department not to overdo upgrades of tracks and facilities (including a group on the Kapiti Coast representing disabled persons).

4.6.2 The NZCA would be concerned if, when developing the Strategy, “high quality” was interpreted to mean only well-developed tracks, other facilities, and promotional material.

4.7 “Facilitators require…..” (page 18). There is no mention of plans and other guidance or rules. As identified in paragraph 3 bullet #9 of this letter, the NZCA considers that plans are necessary for the establishment of objectives and consistent delivery by facilitators.

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Contents of a national outdoor recreation strategy “Encourage greater participation….policies and plans to remove barriers to participation” (page 19). The NZCA, as previously stated, considers that there should be a range of opportunities representing a range of challenges to skills, experience, interests and fitness - i.e., everywhere is not to be managed in the same way. The NZCA therefore does not support the removal of barriers to participation if this would let to a one size fits all approach. One group should not be able to enjoy their outdoor recreation preference at the expense of the enjoyment of others or of the environment. The NZCA supports the development of policies and plans for a wide range of purposes (such as nature conservation as well as recreation) as previously identified and does not think that planning should be for one purpose only i.e. the removal of barriers to participation. The NZCA also supports recreation planning and monitoring based on sound science, rather than approached in an ad hoc or “on demand” manner. The NZCA does not support any re-organisation of the sector which does not place outdoor recreation into a wider context.(“Facilitating a re-organisation of the sector………” (page 20) refers). For instance, public conservation lands and waters are managed in accordance with an integrated management model which weighs up natural, historical and cultural values as well as those of recreation and provides for a range of opportunities so that in some places the interests of people have priority and in others the interests of natural or historical or cultural heritage have priority. Additionally, the NZCA notes that considerable effort has been applied in recent years to improving walking access in the outdoors, encapsulated in the Walking Access Bill currently before Parliament. The Bill will have particular relevance to improving opportunities for non-motorised outdoor recreation on private land. The NZCA would be concerned if the work of the Walking Access Commission proposed for establishment in the Bill was impacted by any reorganisation of the outdoor recreation sector before it has had the chance to establish its worth. NZCA would prefer to see existing tools, structures and organisations used and if necessary enhanced, rather than the development of new ones. They have evolved naturally, of their own accord. Artificial structures imposed on the existing tools, structures and organisations would carry the risk of being divisive, rather than unifying influences. (“Ensuring that a coordinated training and development framework…….” (page 20) refers) The NZCA supports sector self-regulation and monitoring, rather than Government regulation and enforcement, but with authorised third party auditing to maintain standards and ensure compliance where outcomes are important.

Other areas of focus

4.9 The NZCA considers that the definition of the key concepts should be the starting point for the creation of good policy. “Outdoor recreation,” defined only briefly and in the most general terms, is of central importance and occurs 389 times in the two documents. “Sector,” which occurs 250 times, is not defined at all.

Priorities for action

4.10 The NZCA considers that the following are the priorities for action.

  • Definitions of outdoor recreation and sector
  • Further research to collect sound data to inform sound policy decisions
  • Development of a purpose statement for the Outdoor Recreation Strategy
  • Encouragement of physical activity and the development of skills which increase benefits and decrease risks of recreation outdoors.
  • Encouragement of participation by youth (of all ethnicities)
  • Provision of outdoor recreation opportunities close to urban populations

Where do you see your organisation playing a significant role?

4.11 The NZCA has a potentially significant role to play in reviewing the policy and planning proposals of the Department of Conservation relating to outdoor recreation consistent with the Conservation Act. This is due to its statutory function to approve the 10-year management planning documents for public conservation lands and waters administered by the Department and to provide advice to the Department during the development of policy applying to public conservation land and waters. The NZCA may also disseminate information and undertake advocacy for outdoor recreation on public conservation land but has no management or delivery role.

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