· By Rotorua Ziplines
Creating a Benchmark for Regenerative Tourism
The word “sustainable” has become so loosely thrown around in many different industries, it can be hard to differentiate between a sincerely sustainable brand and a successful marketing strategy.
When the vision for Rotorua Ziplines was formed, we really wanted to stand above the rest, and set a benchmark for the New Zealand tourism industry. Moving forward from sustainable & responsible tourism, into regenerative tourism.
The international tourism industry has generated major environmental impacts over the years. Things like biodiversity loss, impacting landscapes, waste and water scarcity. Not to mention the social impacts, such as over-tourism, gentrification and social uprising.
The COVID-19 pandemic further emphasised these vulnerabilities. So, when the vision for Rotorua Ziplines was formed, we saw this as a window of opportunity to rethink tourism. We really wanted to stand above the rest and set a benchmark for the New Zealand tourism industry, moving forward from sustainable & responsible tourism, into regenerative tourism. Regenerative tourism and the idea of ‘building back better’ is a concept that has increasingly received attention as a new way to travel.
Regenerative tourism has received quite some attention in the academic world and society, but what are we actually talking about?
It represents a sustainable way of travelling and discovering new places.
The main goal is for visitors & tourists to have a positive impact on their holiday destination, to leave it in a better condition than how they found it.
It’s a concept that goes beyond "not damaging" the environment and aims to actively revitalise and regenerate it, resulting in a positive cycle of impacts on local communities and economies: sustainable regeneration.
How did we implement this into Rotorua Ziplines?
It started as an ontological shift in the way we understand, approach and act with respect to travel and tourism. We had a vision, born through an intimate connection with the Okere Awa, to showcase its mauri (spirit) and importance through Aotearoa. From this vision stems a responsibility to enhance this natural wonder, and protect it for the generations to come.
Forest Regeneration & Reforestation:
Rotorua Ziplines immediate mission is to increase our indigenous forest by 6ha, which would sequester 26000 Tonnes of CO2, equivalent to 3250 households worth of CO2.
But reforestation goes beyond offsetting CO2, it protects waterways and the ecosystem that surrounds them, it preserves and enhances bird and wild life, it restores habitat loss, degradation and threats to the species who once thrived in the area.
We’ve cleared over 12’000 square metres of surrounding farmland of blackberry and gorse and have replanted over 5,000 native trees. With the goal to plant another 10,000 on the river edge, enabling us to rid 90% of gorse from the area.
Our guests are invited to plant a tree in their name, to be a part of these efforts, and build back better through this zipline experience.
No Trace Waste & MyNOKE:
As a part of our reforestation efforts, we saw it vital that we utilised other parts of the experience. This is where MyNOKE and No Trace Waste came in.
MyNOKE provides our vermi-composting, its valuable nutrients are diverted from landfill. Instead of going to waste, these nutrients are returned to the soil, where they came from.
No Trace Waste is changing the game in single use packaging, using water-based dispersion technology, to provide an alternative to traditional plastic and PLA lined products.
We use MyNOKE earthworm castings as a catalyst to our planting efforts.
After sipping on ancient native teas in these NoTraceWaste Cups, we fill them with MyNOKE soil, your tree and straight into the ground.
Limiting landscape impact:
It was vital for us to transport our manuhiri through our experience with the ability to leave no trace. This made us think outside the square, using the natural landscape to create the zipline route we have today.
We anchored our lines using 65mm diameter but 6m deep ground screws. This meant we were leaving only a micro footprint & weren’t interrupting the root systems below.
For the boardwalks, using ground screws meant we were able to build an elevated pathway that could sit above and around these root systems. We used untreated treads to reduce any leaching of chemicals into the environment and chose the path of less resistance, transplanting any vegetation within the corridor.
Pest & Waste Control:
We Proudly support The Okere Project, a community action group dedicated to creating a Predator Free Okere Falls, trapping rats, mice, and possums. We currently manage two of the trap lines in the reserve and implement our own efforts into extra pest control.
In working with the Te Arawa Lakes Trust and the ‘Catfish Killas’ in the eradication of catfish in Lake Rotoiti, we check, clear and monitor the nets, to keep these pests out of our waterways.
Creating the "Monday Clean Up" initiative, where staff & community donate an hour every Monday to pick up rubbish around the Kaituna River & Ōkere Falls area means that we cankeep our area looking beautiful for locals and guests alike.
We got our hands on a decommissioned farm side-by-side, and with the help of a few local legends (and geniuses) converted it into a fully electric run around for the farm.
Soon enough, all our vehicles will be completely electric, meaning we can emit fewer greenhouse gases and air pollutants than petrol or diesel cars.
Rotorua Ziplines was created to showcase its mauri (spirit) and importance through Aotearoa. But with this, comes the responsibility to protect and enhance this natural wonder for the generations to come.
We dream that in 100 years, we will again drink from the Kaituna Awa & be deafened by native bird song in the Ōkere Reserve.