The Mārahau Pledge – a commitment to the environment

The Mārahau Pledge – a commitment to the environment

Written by Charlotte Lang

Posted on Thursday 13 October 2022

A group of Te Tauihu-based tourism operators are making a groundbreaking commitment to regenerative tourism. Every tourism operator based out of Mārahau, from water taxis and kayaking to canyoning and walking guides, have come together under a new initiative called the Mārahau Pledge, launched today.

The Abel Tasman National Park is New Zealand’s smallest and most popular national park. Many people's journeys into the Park start from Mārahau, a small coastal settlement.

Developed in partnership with the Nelson Regional Development Agency (NRDA), the Mārahau Pledge is an active commitment from the local tourism operators to care for the environment. For visitors leaving from Mārahau it means they will have a zero carbon experience regardless of which Mārahau operator they choose. A portion of every ticketed experience will go to projects focused on improved biodiversity and conservation outcomes for Mārahau Village and the surrounding area. Additionally all the businesses signed up to the pledge will share knowledge that will improve the sustainability of tourism operations.

“Our region is famous for its beautiful environment, and people from all around Aotearoa and the world come here to find a connection with nature. As people who live, work and play here, we have a collective responsibility to care for and respect the environment,” says Johny O’Donnell, spokesperson for the project. “Every visitor is valuable to our local economy, and we need to ensure that we get the balance right. We need to work together on ways to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The businesses taking the Mārahau Pledge are showing the way. It’s transformational.”

Fiona Wilson, NDRA Chief Executive says that sustainability is an important consideration for many visitors. “People are really keen to travel again but there has been a fundamental shift in awareness about the impacts of tourism on local communities and the environment. Post-Covid it's definitely not back to business as usual for the visitor sector, we all know that there have to be changes,” Wilson says.

“A key focus for our Destination Management Plan is to encourage visitors to care more and do more for our region while they are here. We know there is a growing demand for light footprint travel and last year launched New Zealand’s first Zero Carbon Itinerary to demonstrate how easy it is for visitors to travel more consciously in Nelson Tasman. The Mārahau Pledge is another way to give visitors confidence that their experience isn’t going to have a net negative impact on the environment. The tourism operators based in Mārahau, along with a number of other businesses in Nelson Tasman, are leading the way in this sector to demonstrate their commitment, not only to the Park, but to the surrounding area. They love and care about Mārahau, and they want to do more than protect it, they want to enhance it.”

“Mārahau really is a village. There are a small number of us who live here, but thousands of people visit, particularly on their way to experience the Abel Tasman,” says Renee Thomas, (Ngāti Rārua) kaitiaki of Wakatū Incorporation’s whenua at Mārahau. “The Mārahau Pledge is a recognition that large numbers of visitors do have an impact on the environment, and that the visitor sector is taking responsibility to make a practical contribution to the long-term wellbeing of te taiao in Mārahau.”

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