In November 2019, our directors and staff travelled to Taupo, New Zealand for a business planning and strategic direction retreat. Held over 5 days, the retreat allowed us to analyse business success over the preceding 12 months, set a strategic direction for our existing and emerging areas of practice, and discuss systems and processes…… that’s was the boring stuff.
The exciting stuff
Tourism and ecotourism projects such as Sheraton Mirage Resort, Big Pineapple and Takarakka Bush Resort have been keeping us busy and interested for some time now. With further projects in the pipeline, we took an opportunity to see how the Kiwis are delivering conservation outcomes in their eco-tourism projects.
We met up with Tongariro River Rafting, the team coordinating the ‘The Blue Duck Project’ on the Tongariro River. The Blue Duck (also known as Whio), which has very specific breeding habitat (high quality, fast flowing reaches of rivers that are prone to flooding) has suffered a significant decline.
Where suitable habitats remain intact pressure from human interaction and hydro schemes are an issue, but the greatest threat arises from predation by stoats and rats. This is where the Blue Duck Project is making a unique contribution to the species’ recovery.
On the Tongariro River, much of the Blue duck breeding habitat cannot be accessed by land but is passed daily by the company’s guided rafts. It was soon realised that Tongariro River Rafting was ideally placed to assist in conservation and recovery of the Blue duck by providing access (to otherwise inaccessible) breeding habitat for culling of stoats and rats. The Blue Duck Experience was hatched 😊.
Since implementation of the program the team at Tongariro River Rafting has logged breeding success and noted the (increasing) number of adult ducks as they take tourists along for their rafting adventure. Their Blue duck trip provides further immersion in the conservation effort, with rafters checking and re-baiting predator traps in riparian areas.
The Blue duck project demonstrates how ecotourism can be sustainably accomodated in sensitive areas, and how it can supplement the conservation efforts of government. We’ll seek to identify and incorporate similar win-win conservation initiatives on our projects back here in Queensland.