Treasure our great outdoors this summer and stay safe

As we face another summer break with border restrictions, DOC is once again anticipating high numbers of New Zealanders taking time out in their great outdoors, says Strategy and Insights Manager, Tim Bamford.

“We’re seeing roughly the same numbers of New Zealanders planning to get outdoors compared with last year, albeit with a little more concern related to COVID-19.”

“It’s fantastic to see New Zealanders’ continued enthusiasm for getting into nature – it’s a great way to connect with family and friends and increase wellbeing.”

Hut and campsite bookings data shows an increase of 14% in the number of bednights booked over summer (1 December 2021 to 28 February 2022). Summer bednight bookings on Great Walks are almost the same – down by less than a percent on last year.

“Over 100,000 bednights are booked on our Great Walks over summer – that’s one person staying a night in either a bunk or tent – and 246,011 bednights are booked for huts, campsites and lodges.”

Results from DOC surveying around 1,000 New Zealanders each month between August and November, show the desire for personal and family safety has been influencing around four in five New Zealanders when choosing where to visit.

“The top COVID-19 concern for over half of New Zealanders when going into the outdoors was that ‘other New Zealanders won’t follow the rules’.”

‘Taking time out to enjoy the peace and quiet’ and ‘physical exercise and fitness’ were the top two benefits sought by visitors to the outdoors, with short walks and sightseeing the most popular activities.

“New Zealand’s national parks and most reserves, tracks, and day facilities (excluding huts) in conservation areas are free for everyone to use to take time out unwinding in nature at the end of an uncertain year.

“In DOC huts, campsites and lodges, COVID-19 transmission risks have been assessed to be high or moderate, so vaccination verification (or an exemption) is needed to use these.”

“This policy was brought in to provide people with more certainty when making plans for the holidays, allow us to keep accommodation open, and to ensure facilities are as safe as possible for visitors and those who work in them.

“This is a complex and ever-evolving situation as we respond to a global pandemic. DOC will also review health and safety risks at its facilities over summer in line with Ministry of Health guidelines. Where necessary we may bring in additional restrictions or, as a last resort, close facilities.

“People should check the DOC website for the latest information before they travel.”

DOC rangers will be out over summer looking after conservation areas and checking people are visiting responsibly, including checking proof of vaccination where required.

“While you’re out there, please help us care for Aotearoa and the awesome, quirky and vulnerable native plants and wildlife that live here,” says Tim Bamford.

“Issues from last year included unpermitted fires and family pets in conservation areas, reckless boating and four-wheel driving, litter and vandalism.”

“Let’s do better by New Zealand this year. Please check where you can take your dog, or if you can light a fire. Know the boating rules before you hit the water, so you don’t harm our whales, dolphins and seals. Remove all waste and give wildlife space. Prepare well for your trip including checking the conditions before heading out.”

Find out how to keep yourselves and our wildlife safe and get ideas for places to visit, including huts and campsites with space to book over summer.

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