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5 reasons why banishing backpackers and targeting wealthy tourists would be a mistake for NZ

By James Higham

Raise your hand if you’ve ever travelled for weeks or months as a backpacker on a limited daily budget. Keep your hand up if you were made welcome in the places you visited on your OE, enjoyed chance encounters and experienced the generosity of strangers.

And did those experiences leave a lifelong affection for the places you visited and people you met? If the answer is yes, then we need to consider what might happen in New Zealand were Tourism Minister Stuart Nash’s latest ideas to become policy.

To recap, Nash told the Tourism Summit in Wellington last week the industry should move away from catering for low-spending backpackers and instead target the rich. This would solve two problems: the environmental damage allegedly caused by freedom campers (including using nature as their toilet), and the pressure of too many visitors in general.

Nash was right to say we cannot return to the pre-COVID normal when the border reopens and the tourism recovery begins. Overcapacity, strained infrastructure and environmental impacts meant growing community resistance was reaching a tipping point.

But do we really want to banish backpackers and position New Zealand as expensive and exclusive — the Switzerland of the South Pacific? There are five reasons this approach would be a mistake.

1. Big spenders are big polluters

Lower-budget travellers generally stay much longer than the average. They usually make a higher aggregate economic contribution than those whose daily spend is high but who pass through quickly.

Does New Zealand really want only the uber-rich to experience our natural wonders, when flying business class, travelling by cruise ship and hiring helicopters are the most environmentally damaging ways to do so?

If we were to consider the wider social, economic and environmental impacts of discrete tourism markets, we would be banishing the cruise industry first, not backpackers.

2. Backpackers bring many benefits

Because they stay longer, backpackers can bring wider benefits to our society, economy and environment. They tend to be more dispersed, bringing economic development and employment opportunities to regional communities.

Also, their travel behaviours tend to align more with the concept of regenerative tourism. Backpackers are more likely to be conscious of their carbon footprint, engage in beach cleanups, plant trees and involve themselves in conservation projects.

They are a seasonal labour force, too, as has been shown by critical labour shortages in rural and regional economies due to border closures.

3. The importance of diverse tourism

Backpackers and freedom campers support small regional tourism businesses, attractions and local services that would not survive without them. Backpacker hostels, home-stays, camping grounds and other low-budget accommodation subsectors would be at risk, as would many small and medium tourism businesses.

During crises it is important that tourism destinations have a broad portfolio of markets. This ensures resilience and mitigates potential economic impacts from periodic disruptions to global tourism. Furthermore, as the mayor of Queenstown has observed, today’s backpackers return in future as high-end visitors.

4. Tackling climate change and overconsumption

Social tourism refers to the principle that opportunities to engage occasionally in leisure and tourism are important for personal well-being and an inclusive society. It is a form of tourism based on an ethic of social inclusion, as opposed to exclusion based on wealth.

By contrast, the carbon-intense lifestyles and sense of entitlement of the super-wealthy are major barriers to climate action.

Our tourism policies should not celebrate and encourage over-consumption, which works against shifting attitudes towards less carbon-intensive and more sustainable travel.

5. Damage to our international reputation

Do we really want to be perceived as exclusionary and elitist? A colleague based at a university in the Netherlands, for example, reported a social media backlash:

EVERYONE IS COMPLAINING ABOUT THE NEWS THAT KIWIS DO NOT WANT TO HAVE US ANYMORE AND THEY ARE ONLY INTERESTED IN TOURISTS WHO FLY BUSINESS CLASS AND HIRE A HELICOPTER AROUND FRANZ JOSEF.

Similarly, the policy can look petty. A story headlined “New Zealand vows crackdown on defecating backpackers” in the Times of India reported the New Zealand government’s promise “to take action against backpackers relieving themselves at natural beauty spots as part of post-coronavirus tourism plans”.

The post-COVID challenge

Should New Zealand’s post-coronavirus tourism rebuild really be perceived as revolving around the defecations of low-budget tourists? While there have been cases of disgusting behaviour, this problem can be actively managed.

Non-self-contained campervans could be required to park overnight in fully serviced camping grounds for a nominal fee. New Zealanders should not bear the costs of tourism, anyway. Local councils transfer the costs of freedom camping to ratepayers when they provide “free” overnight parking and toilet facilities — putting rate-paying local camping grounds out of business.

Above all, our tourism rebuild should be closely aligned with what makes New Zealand unique. First and foremost, it should be founded on the Māori principles of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga — a mutual responsibility to care for the land and culture, as expressed in the Tiaki Promise charter.

This would honestly reflect the ideals of generations of Kiwis who have set off on their own OEs to experience the world. If we consider this a birthright, is it fair that we deny the same to others who want to visit us?

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31 COMMENTS

  1. So a few backpackers and budget travelers crap in the bush and leave a mess and the wankers in government and council wanna ban them ,FFs our 8 million cows alone shit and piss 64,000,000 kgs of waste into our ecosystem every day, yes every day, a cow dumps about 8kgs a day ,do the maths and these dickheads are worried about a few budget tourists, FFUUUCCKKK.
    And that’s not counting pigs goats deer lamas cats dogs budgies etc.

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  2. agree with most of that.
    The shitting tourists are not new.
    It used to bug hunters who would walk along a track and see just that, for example Waikaremoana.

    Why it happens is simple.

    1. They are frightened of our bush so to step off a track means getting lost, something nasty attacks them , someone nasty attacks them
    Now us kiwi’s know that none of those things are likely if you push off a few metres.

    2. They eat a loopy food diet. Oh we are going bush. Fill up on food like sultanas and dried fruit because its good energy food. But it also makes ya shit.

    3. Popular tracks that are well used make no provision for toilets. DOC tracks in particular.
    We should not expect tourists who come from different time zones to rapidly adapt to our time patterns. As anyone who has travelled through time zones knows that it takes some time to adjust the body and that includes all the functions.
    The Tongariro Track is a good example of DOC taking the money and not providing the facility. Sure it will be expensive but should be included in the ticket. ( fortunately there will be few chineses up there this year in theie high heels, Jandals and no clothes.)

    4. If we are going to have well organised tourism then we need to grow the facilities. Campgrounds have become almost extinct in NZ. Was looking in the weekend for somewhere to go. Try googling campgrounds and see how many you can find.

    We need backpackers for seasonal work and we need rich tourists for our top end. Fishing and hunting generally are not backpackers sports but are very lucrative for NZ. Bringing tourists to NZ is another way of spreading our good things and encouraging people to use our products whether they be back packers or wealthy.

    And most importantly one doesn’t know which backpacker is going to be wealthy down the track and which wealthy person is going to go broke or go to jail.
    Its like most things in life. It’s all about balance and everything in moderation.

    (unlike KB of course).

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  3. It’s not the backpacking that is the issue, it’s when they get a cheap car or van whack a toilet sticker on the back and cruise around nz shitting in the wild , instead of using the bucket they keep under the bed.

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    • Lack of facilities and I can tell you long distance truckies get caught out as well.
      Especially when there ar hold up between places as do Kiwi’s when travelling.

      There should be no reason why anyone can’t travel around without having access to facilities.
      Removing Service station has exacerbated the problem.

      Build some shit houses , with showers and a small fee for use thereof.

      Better and cheaper than cleaning up someones mess.

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    • Correct Viking, there is plenty of room along our highways and roads to put clean rest rooms. The cold brick shit houses need an upgrade. If they want to grow tourism it is time for NZ to build decent facilities off our long winding roads.

      You can understand why nobody would wish to use the onboard ‘potty’ in the back of a stationwagon. Firstly the smell would become horrendous (yes I know they have chemicals in them) and secondly you’d have to be really comfortable around your travelling mate with the lack of privacy.

      Not my cup of tea at all. 🤨

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      • The cost on councils, that is the rate payer, to design, and build, to comply, seems to be staggering in some cases.

        In years gone by, there were “ladies rest rooms” and a contribution was expected, so well built, that one could see them as the proverbial “brick house”

        Here I robbed;-
        Here i sit broken hearted, spent a penny, and only farted!

        Here I sit, sly and artful – got in free and did a cartfull!

        Today I didn t take a chance
        I kept the penny and **** my pants

        Let your wind go free
        Where ever you may be
        Twas the holding of a fart
        That saw the end of me.

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  4. This is a fairly typical response from this government:
    – legislate
    – look to be doing something
    – realise it’s not going to solve the problem, but kick it down the road
    – let someone else do the work
    – ignore the businesses who rely on whatever you’re banning

    In the old days, we used to buy a camper, do our touring, and sell it to the next punter. These rental vans will just be doing the rounds under different ownership.

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  5. To travel around NZ, there are a lot of free facilities.
    Just the knack of using them, and being responsible.

    I thought the back packers were tourists, basically having the time, to take in not only the views but also to meet the NZ culture, acclaimed as being so friendly & helpful.
    So meet them!

    Buy a pie or coffee at a service station, and make use of their facilities.

    Pop in to any restaurant, and many cafes, McDonalds, KFC,buy something minor.
    The super market, ware house, and many towns & villages have toilets, that are open through the day.

    Pop into a pub, or a “club” same thing, even just to have a glass of “cultural” L&P, the toilets are there.

    It is ridiculous, ignorant & arrogant to be doing “big business” on a track or rest area.
    Please just a bit of thought, and consideration.

    The other part, is those in vechicles could carry a small spade, or even just a garden trowel, warehouse, Mitre10 etc. and carried in that backpack.
    A small hole, then cover back, + some litter, or even a cow pat, all biodegradable, and the flies can not get to it.
    Then a hand sanitizer these days, 🙂

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  6. I suspect there is more to it than just a bit of shit, disgusting as it is, in picnic areas etc. Under the WEF plan for the “new normal/ great reset” plebs will not be encouraged to travel – they will hardly be able to afford it anyway, the days of mass tourism except, perhaps, to mega destinations like the Costa del Packet is over. New Zealand’s tourism industry is a small sacrifice in the grand schme of things. We are only at the beginning and the changes that the reset will involve will kill millions maybe billions and impoverish almost all of us who are not of the “elite.”

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  7. Does Nashy not realise the backpackers of today are the future business leaders and politicians of tomorrow?

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  8. I thought what a load of shit.
    So to speak.
    That is all Agenda21 verbiage.

    So I looked up
    “James Higham is Professor at the University of Otago, New Zealand and Visiting Professor at the University of Stavanger, Norway. He is co-editor of the Journal of Sustainable Tourism .”

    Here is the intro to one of his papers:
    “Climate change is one of the major issues facing us today and has been described as a threat greater than terrorism. As the world’s largest industry tourism both contributes to and will be dramatically affected by climate change. This is the first comprehensive book-level examination of the relationship between tourism and climate change, of interest not only to students of tourism but to policy makers and the industry who will have to respond to the challenges posed.”

    He is the one spreading shit.
    To see more shit of his ..it stinks …go into
    https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=OP9tVK4AAAAJ&hl=en

    You can see the mutt’s agenda (21)
    Headings to the crap above:
    – Big spenders are big polluters
    -The importance of diverse tourism
    -Tackling climate change and overconsumption

    This language is 100% Cultural Marxism

    The language is Full on Agenda 21 (morphed into 2030) and he was writing this more than 15 years ago.
    He is dyed in the wool ‘modern liberal’ (aka do what I say or I will dox your arse) and Otago Uni based.
    What could ever be right about this Critter?

    I happen to agree with Nash.
    A broken clock and all that.
    He is actually correct to get rid of the low end 10-15% of the market in favour of value add.
    Cripes, we do so little value add in NZ.
    We export raw logs by the boat load, milk powder in brown paper bags not yogurt or chocolate (like Switzerland or Belgium that do not have Cacao trees)

    These back packers are often low life.
    They come here and steal. There is a website where they log in to see which stores are easiest to steal from.
    Esp in Blenheim- Pak n Save and Warehouse. There are a number of convictions for germans and french in the last 6 years for this. Ridiculously low fines. Often end up paying for the goods only. In one case, $12 recompense, no fine.

    This January- if no lock down- I will go back to the South Island for the first time in 5 years.
    Nash wants to get rid of the beach and bush shitters, not the people who stay in legit campgrounds.

    We can do better than encouraging low end critters who spend months living in a station wagon, stealing, dumpster diving, and not paying $20 a night for a camp site.
    Before lockdown in the first quarter I had spent nights in campgrounds in Rotorua and Tokaanu.
    The last week in March I had planned to tackle Mt Ruapehu and stay in a campground before I (we all) got Home D
    $20-25 for the night with toilets, hot pools, cooking facilities, access to fridge and freezer.

    If you cant afford that, dont come her.

    Nash is just ejecting the trash.
    No trash Nash.
    I endorse this message.

    James Higham can fuck right off.
    He is the type of prick one needs to be wary of.
    All the right words that A.21 wankers use
    Sustainability, Climate Change,
    and the crackup “Above all, our tourism rebuild should be closely aligned with what makes New Zealand unique. First and foremost, it should be founded on the Māori principles of kaitiakitanga and manaakitanga ”
    Hell yeah. Those ancient Maoris loved their polyester tents, Subaru Forresters, and Purex toilet paper.

    All using words that get wanker research grants.

    It is fatal to attack Nash for once saying the right thing because you despise him and him Govt, but siding with the sworn enemy- pure Cultural Marxism shit from Otago Uni like Higham.

    In the long run – as we see with his writings over decades – Higham does more damage than a 3 year by 3 year politician. Think Yes Minster. The (oxymoron) Public Servant causes more change than hot air from a Poli.

    Chocolate Fish for best reply goes to Simpleton at 7.56

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    • Well written howitis and thank-you.

      Some of those backpackers are absolute spoiled brats, bought up in the liberal high schools of entitlement, and are arrogant in the great religion of “climate change” & “rascism” etc..
      I believe that number has been increasing in the last half dozen years.

      Fortunately not too many, as others when confronted, want to learn by their overseas experience, so will listen, and follow some of those very common camping ideas, like a trowel.

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    • There is only one part I wish for further discussion, though a tad off topic.

      Why the academics, criticizers invest not other peoples money, but their money, to sacrifice that latte, bottle of wine, & restaurant meal, raise a mortgage on their home, to form a company for further down stream processing if it is so good.
      Surely Tip Top should be exporting ice cream around the world?
      Those logs should be all milled, and programmed into kitset housing or natural toys, to be sent around the world.

      Look at the price of wool, then so many tennis balls travel 40,000 km to make their debut at Wimbledon.
      https://www.nzherald.co.nz/sport/wimbledon-tennis-balls-made-with-nz-wool/6H6E3FV2M7HOQ7ILQMEGCOLAPA/

      One of the big issues is the more processing in NZ, the higher the tarriff.
      Can a business in NZ, that then has a higher investment, and hence more money tied up because of down stream processing, then with-stand any delays, hiccups in transport.

      Absolutely frustrating for Fonterra, share holders to hear, the losses of subsidiary dairy farming in China and ventures a number of times.
      But CCP also puts many restrictions and costs in place if one does not contribute to the CCP corrupt business’s.
      No pay, no play.

      I disagree how Fonterra is run and their culture, but also look how that has been backed not only by government politicians but the insidious agenda 21 bureaucrats and are not only dependent on those regulations, but also simultaneously ham-stringed and constrained by them.

      This also happened to the meat processing industry and actually busted some of the companies going down that track, like Challenge & Fortex late last century.
      Small companies may get away with being under the radar, but too much success, leading to expansion and more costs and risk, so they either sell out to the large ones or go bust.
      All in the name of “crony capitalism” as guided by the rules & regulations of socialist/communistic bureaucracy.

      The price of wool at its cheapest should be right for further down stream processing in NZ.
      An opportunity for further processing? scouring? but cheaper in other countries. Spinning, again cheaper, while in that other country. Knitting or weaving, fabrics, again cheaper.
      Then there are the tariffs, but special treatment for 3rd world countries in cheaper tariffs.
      Carbon taxes, mileage distance, difficult to overcome in marketing.

      A few decades ago, wool was known to be fire resistant, but the word was not to “trade on a tragedy”, when there were some horrific hotel fires, that asphyxiation by toxic smokes was the major cause of death.
      Also a cause of death in some plane crashes.

      So though the share market sounds good, but if one loses money, that company goes bankrupt or taken over, shares diluted, etc., your money does not come back, and other companies may take the market to even higher records. But you are now dealt out of it.

      The hair cut will take place one or the other, either through banks taking a skim of your deposits, inflation, no interest on your money, houses faced with rental laws and upgrades, increased rates, insurance,

      And the ‘but’, no one rings the bell when it is at an all time high or an all time low.
      Among the constant ringing of bells;-
      the bell tolls for thee. “You will have nothing and be happy”

      Overturn them, Constantly question them and hold their answers up to ridicule, with a sense of humor if you can.
      Better to laugh than cry; at so much of this crazy world.

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      • Good stuff. Simpleton.

        FYI, Fonterra sold Tip Top ice-cream last year to a Brit company.
        Fonterra office boys could not possibly innovate.
        All the brands they trade on were well established before the formation of Fonterra.
        In fact they have less now.
        A monkey bashing on a keyboard would write better business plans than Fonterra.

        The sale of Tip top was to defray debt from their 101 cock-ups of the last 10 years (include Shakey shakem, quivering wreck , Who Muller in that; 800k a year and he was utterly useless, to be fair)
        So many cockups in Fonterra they were shedding assets.
        The Farmer/shareholders paid the price for the office boys’ cock-ups eg the Botulism that was not.
        Lost the Danone Business AND paid the 180 mill fine.

        Tip Top. Actually not a very good ice-cream. Very low grade. Probably bottom of the pile anyway. Talleys is better and of course worth buying because they stick it to unions and troublemakers.
        I like it. That is just me.
        Must say I prefer Moore’s icecream. Its tip top, I mean great.

        Diane Forman recently married Paul Henry. She was previously third wife of true entrepreneur Bill Forman(plastics)
        She got out with lots of bucks.
        She purchased into Emerald Group that made ice-cream. Brands included New Zealand Natural, Killinchy Gold, Zilch. At one stage they had Movenpick.
        They added value.
        She establish retail outlets in more than 15 counties for NZ Natural ice-cream then sold about 6 years ago to a Hong Kong outfit.
        She added value….Fonterra do not.

        The NZ Dairy Board (public servants) was more entrepreneurial than the salarymen at Fonterra.
        Fonterra has to be one of the biggest business failures in NZ. Possibly more than Fletchers when Sian E lias’s hubby , Hugo was ‘running’ (?) it with all his Harvard BS.

        I dont know much about wool except it is in the doldrums and a farmer has to keep a shearing shed in nick for perhaps less than 3 weeks a year use.
        I do know last weekend I purchased some socks and they were 60% plus merino. I wear wool socks all year round as it breathes- better than cotton; and in golf shoes when out there for 4+ hours it is soft and comfortable.

        Whinestone said he would push for wool carpets in NZ Govt offices but that was as much BS at the Liebour lot buying electric golf carts, oh I mean , sort of car thingymajigs.
        Whiney did look after the pretty horses and their owners, and the fishing fleets. Bella Vela.
        Shame Jonesy looked after his Croatian cousies, eh bro.
        I guess the sheep farmers did not pay enough to the ‘Foundation’…that Whiney knows nothing about !!

        The idiocy of ignoring wool as a viable option is that in many cases it is replaced with oil based products. Synthetics. Vinyls, polyester etc. These poseurs rant on about sustainability but chose the unnatural option more often than not.
        Dunedin city Council being prime example of outright hypocrites.

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  9. Epic fuckwits are too stupid to understand that targetting freedom campers now means you can’t pull over on the side of the road and sleep. That’s now banned in this shithole country.

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    • Tell them you were tired, afraid you might fall asleep at the wheel & decided to obey the nannying, NZTA sponsored hoarding a few clicks back that advised you to pull over & take a nap. From https://www.nzta.govt.nz/safety/driving-safely/fatigue/

      “Fatigue warning signs

      If you’re driving and notice any of the following warning signs, it’s important that you pull over and take a break. The best option is to set a timer or alarm and have a 15 minute nap before driving further.”

      Will work as an excuse every time providing you’re not wearing your pyjamas when questioned. 🙂

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      • Ooii !!
        Waka Kotahi to you, Sir !!

        NZTA are rebranding to a new name.
        I suspect that this is because there’s so much shit under the mudguard of NZTA after 12 years existence they want people to forget this dismal past.

        Another thing Johnny Key’s sleepy Nats did nothing to remedy.
        NZTA was formed in the last months of Klarkenfuhrer’s Govt.

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  10. The problem isn’t freedom campers, the problem is the camper they are using. I don’t care how many stickers they have on their vehicle, a Starship or station wagon is not self contained, because while a portable toilet could theoretically be used while the bed is made up, it isn’t.

    I saw a story on Stuff where a foreign Covid-stayer was saying they just looked at people as they brushed their teeth out the back of the van and decided to move on. They damn themselves with their own words. If the van was self contained, why would they need to brush their teeth outside?

    Something should not be deemed self contained unless it has a separate toilet room in the vehicle. The others should head to serviced locations: camp grounds, backpacker rooms, hostels… Now is the time for change in that area.

    What will we get instead? A climate emergency declaration. That’s useful… Not!

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