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DOC's new Heritage and Visitor Strategy is fully focused on protecting and enhancing the value of New Zealand's natural, cultural and historic heritage, while also promoting a sustainable environmental experience, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.

"It has been a quarter of a century since DOC first developed a visitor strategy. Things have obviously changed quite a bit since then."

Along with a significant increase in New Zealanders visiting conservation areas, there has been rapid growth and fluctuation in the numbers of international visitors as well as changes in how people want to get into nature and connect with New Zealand's heritage.

"New Zealanders live in one of the most incredible places on Earth - with a natural, cultural and historic environment like no other. More than ever, people want to visit public conservation land and waters to experience our unique heritage," says Kiri Allan.

"The new Heritage and Visitor Strategy, launched today, provides a framework for DOC to navigate the changing context for visitors and realise potential benefits for conservation and all New Zealanders."

The emphasis on heritage is an important one, says Kiri Allan, "DOC may be best known as a caretaker for our native plants and wildlife, but its staff also manage the largest heritage portfolio in the country - over 13,000 sites right across Aotearoa."

"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted how DOC needs to be able to quickly adapt to fluctuating numbers and visitor patterns in the short-term. The long-term implications of COVID-19 are yet to be seen, but in responding to the crisis and supporting recovery, there is an opportunity to reimagine a better future for New Zealand tourism," says Kiri Allan.

"The strategy aims to shift DOC into a more proactive space so it can anticipate and plan for future changes; and create opportunities for visitors to support productive, sustainable and inclusive economies and enhance community wellbeing."

The long-term goal is to build a system in which visitors contribute, directly or indirectly, to the conservation of New Zealand's natural and cultural heritage (in the way the current International Visitor Conservation and Tourism Levy contributes to the facilities, places and species that international visitors come here to enjoy).

"This contribution could be planting a tree; it could be checking a trapline, caring for huts and tracks, or in the form of a donation. It could be through 'voluntourism' initiatives such as Operation Tidy Fox where we saw a huge swell of interest from a wide range of people (both domestic and international).

"The strategy - in line with the Conservation Act - is very clear: DOC's first priority is to protect the natural and cultural heritage it is charged with caring for on behalf of New Zealanders," Kiri Allan said.

View the full Heritage and Visitor Strategy, plus more information on the strategy's goals, approach and focus areas.

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This press release was sourced from New Zealand's Office of the Minister of Conservation on 17-Feb-2021.