A: Managing Impact through Group Size
The most significant source of negative impacts on the environment is high visitor numbers concentrated in one area at a particular time. Our company philosophy is to visit our natural heritage in small groups, not only to ensure our tourists still have a "wilderness experience", but more importantly to ensure that the wilderness remains wilderness.
B: Minimising Vehicle Impacts, Fuel Emissions and Energy Consumption
The biggest impact our company would have on the environment would be through its use of fossil fuels. Measures we are taking to reduce these impacts are:
- a) Minimising use of vehicles and aircraft: Less than 5% of the time spent doing our activities in the Mount Cook and Tekapo areas is spent in a vehicle.The majority of time is spent on foot and when we do have to use vehicles we use minivans to reduce vehicle movements. Our office is located within walking distance of our home. We provide accommodation for our guiding staff next to our office which reduces travel significantly. We re-stock our two mountain huts only once per year by helicopter, flying food and firewood in and taking toilet waste out on the one flight. We are schedule some activities simultaneously so that two different groups can travel together in the one vehicle, thus halving vehicle movements. Within Tekapo we avoid using a vehicle by walking, biking or using an electric bike.
- b) Minimising energy use at huts and our office: Solar lighting and gas cookers have been installed at both huts. Double-glazing has been installed at Caroline Hut, reducing the need for any heating. Heating is provided by wood-fired pot belly stoves, which can also be used for cooking. The firewood is gleaned from windfalls in the forest behind our home and office. It is a renewable resource. These woodburners are clean burning, and, once hot, produce hardly a trace of smoke. Huts (and our office) are north-facing, catching maximum sun, and reducing any need for heating. The hot water cylinder at our office is turned off during winter. Solar water heating has been installed at our home, so in winter, when quantity of linen to wash is low, sleeping bag liners and hire clothing are washed there. A new more-efficient washing machine has replaced the old one at the office, which had no eco-wash option nor water level options. The washing machine and our Minimac Apple computers claim to use less energy than a light bulb.
- c) Fuel Efficiency: Vehicles have been regularly replaced with more fuel-efficient and lower emission models.
C: Waste Management
The next biggest impact would be production of waste.
- a) Human waste is removed from our mountain hut location by being flown out and emptied into the Mt. Cook Village sewerage pond.
- b) Waste water and Water Conservation: Waste water at our huts is put through a sieve, so that solids can be carried out along with other rubbish and the liquid is filtered through gravel. We are committed to not installing sinks and taps at huts, so that water is conserved and people are careful about waste water (they can’t just tip anything down the sink). Use of sleeping bag liners ensure sleeping bags stay clean, so there is minimal laundry. Instead of showers clients are provided with a bowl of warm water for washing. Fresh food is carefully prepared (veges cleaned and trimmed ready for the pot) so that minimal water is needed during meal preparation.
- c) Food waste is composted on site at our office/home base. Because veges are already trimmed etc. there is very little waste at all for the guide to carry out each trip. Food is purchased in bulk, reducing packaging and petrol consumption.
- d) Paper, cardboard, glass and cans are sorted for recycling, then go to the Mackenzie District Council’s Resource Recovery Park in Lake Tekapo. Paper printed on only one side is re-used. Whenever possible we use the double-sided option to print documents of more than one page.
We have set up an on-line booking form to further reduce paper waste in the office, and our web site is being improved all the time, reducing the need to send out brochures. An e-mail option for filling out our feedback questionnaires is being offered in preference to paper forms as from 2006.
- e) "Consumerism" is avoided by allowing clients to borrow mountaineering, ski touring or trekking clothing and equipment from us instead of having to buy it, and possibly hardly ever use it again in the future.
- f) Re-use: Replaced gear (eg. Boots, jackets, headlamps) is passed on to Mackenzie College for their Outdoor Pursuits Course.
D: Conservation of Native Flora and Fauna
- a) A further potential impact our groups could have is on the vegetation of the areas we visit. We are mindful of the sensitivity of certain plants (eg cushion plants on the “Playing Fields” on the Ball Pass Crossing – using stepping stones where possible). Our guides are conversant with the natural history of the areas visited and assist clients to identify our native plants and bird or insect life, thus developing a sense of “ownership” for these unique features, so that they too feel a responsibility to ensure their preservation.
- b) Track cutting has been kept to a minimum.
- c) Our office garden has been converted to native plants and is a good illustration of wide biodiversity within a small area! A unique feature is that three different species of New Zealand edelweiss can be viewed in one place.
- d) Alpine Recreation undertakes wilding tree control from time to time in the Two Thumb Range, particularly the area surrounding Rex Simpson Hut.
E: Blending in with the Environment
- a) For Caroline Hut rock gabions were used for foundations, not concrete. This means that, should the hut have to be removed for any reason, the wire baskets could be cut, and the rocks dispersed, leaving no traces of a building having been there. Rex Simpson Hut is in an area where there are very few rocks, so wooden posts have been used as foundations. In fact both huts have had to be moved from their original locations (50m and 200m respectively – one for snow reasons, the other for political reasons). The original siting is undetectable in each case.
- b) For both Rex Simpson Hut and Caroline Hut the colour tones of the cladding were chosen carefully, so as to blend in with the surrounding environment. In fact, from a distance it is very difficult to spot Caroline Hut.
E: Support for Local Suppliers
- Much of the clothing we provide for clients is purchased from local suppliers, eg. Earth Sea Sky who manufacture in Christchurch; or it is items that are still in good order, but surplus to staff needs.
The most significant way to keep these environmental impacts low is through keeping visitor numbers low at any one location at any one time. We therefore commit to:
- - Restricting ourselves to accommodating only 8 or 9 clients at Caroline Hut for the Ball Pass Crossing, Introductory Climbing Courses, ski touring and snow shoeing.
- - Restricting ourselves to accommodating only 10 clients at Rex Simpson Hut for summer trekking and winter ski touring.
- - Restricting maximum group size for New Zealand-wide walking tours to 13 pax with two guides, but while walking to disperse groups so that they are indistinguishable from independent walkers.
- - Maintaining a low guide-client ratio: 1:4 for the Caroline Hut operations; and 1:2 or 1:1 for other mountaineering activities.
Other Contributions to Environmental and Social Improvements:
- a) Over many years Gottlieb, our founder, developed a considerable reputation for his nature photography. In May 2008 he presented to the New Zealand Photographic Society at their Annual National Convention, promoting conservation and appreciation of our natural environment. In November 2009 one of his photos of Ngai Tahu Aoraki Bound students descending from Ball Pass won first prize in the TIANZ photo competition.
- b) Gottlieb's work as a member of the Aoraki Conservation Board, 2002-2008 is still influential.
- c) Co-Director, Anne, has been a member of the Tekapo Community Board for over 15 years and has been instrumental in establishing several walkways in the Tekapo area to encourage people to enjoy the scenery and explore the environment on foot, rather than by vehicle. Anne also helped to set up the recycling system for the Mackenzie District.
- d) Gottlieb and other members of our staff have assisted DOC with track maintenance in Mount Cook National Park.
- e) Every year Alpine Recreation sponsors the Mackenzie College Outdoor Pursuits programme by providing our hut facilities for free, so that local pupils can enjoy cross-country skiing and can be introduced to mountaineering, and in so doing develop an appreciation of and sense of identity with their environment. Similar sponsorship is provided to Ngai Tahu to their Aoraki Bound participants in recognition of the importance of maintaining close liaison with the takata whenua in whose topuni area we operate for the Ball Pass Crossing in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.
- f) Gottlieb and Anne have been members and supporters of the Royal Forest
and Bird Society for many years.
- g) Gottlieb has been very active in promoting the concept of protecting "the natural quiet", alerting authorities to the negative impacts of allowing indiscriminate aircraft access everywhere. Largely due to his raising of concerns there is now a successfully working "User Group" that monitors and encourages co-operation from airspace users over Aoraki Mount Cook National Park –to minimize or avoid noise pollution in the Hooker Valley especially.
- h) Gottlieb, along with other interested groups, launched a web site in 2007 to alert the public to the threats to landscape, biodiversity and public access that have arisen through tenure review of pastoral leases.
- i) Both Anne and Gottlieb have actively lobbied for protection of the dark sky and support the local initiative for the creation of a World Heritage Starlight Reserve in the Mackenzie Basin.
Updated November 25, 2009.