Auckland, New Zealand, September 17, 2009 --(PR.com
)-- The prime objective of owner/hosts Donna & Stuart Hamilton was for tourists to receive more of a visitor experience when buying carbon credits. Compared with the usual ‘over-the-counter’ method, the couple wanted their visitors to be more involved with process.
“It’s all very well paying another company for your carbon equivalent offset,” say the Hamilton’s, “but the tourist is not directly involved, (other than paying their money).”
Becoming members of T.I.E.S. (The International Ecotourism Society), was an eye-opener for this Auckland tour company because it brought into the equation the whole concept of what a ‘true’ Eco-tour actually consists of.
Elements of Nature, Culture, Conservation and Environmental sustainability are baseline in the Eco-tour, but threaded throughout this, are that of local operation, and re-direction of profits back into the local community.
After gaining these insights, the Hamilton’s compared New Zealand Eco-tours with those from overseas, and were concerned to see just how little emphasis was placed on a company to see if it operated locally, (especially when quality organisations rated these New Zealand Eco-tours). So, with these ideals clearly in place, the couple set about designing their own project that their tourists could be part of. Today this Native tree planting project is still unique to Auckland tourism, and all parts of Coast to Coast’s operation having a local nature, with the trees also sourced locally; (actually just 10 minutes away).
Not every tour party buys a tree; it is entirely over to the tourist, and no pressure is put on them to do so either. At present about 65% of tours see a tree planted on the farm’s Forest Reserve.
“People are so interested to learn about sequestration and what we are doing, with most happy to offset their tour emissions. They are also excited to have involvement with an ongoing project, as their tree (which gets a numbered tag), is uploaded onto the Coast to Coast Tours website, with updates made at least annually”, say the Hamilton’s.
However, the project has not been an easy exercise for these owner/operator hosts.
“We have gone to great extent (both in time and money!) to secure Local Government Law to protect the trees and land for perpetuity”, said Stuart, whose family were some of the early settlers at Muriwai, and who have farmed this property since 1922.
“Unfortunately, (and as a result of a good gesture on my family’s part, many years ago when we placed covenants on certain areas of our farm to protect the bush in the gullies), a legal glitch eventuated with our Local District Council. The Local Government Law stated that a covenant could not be placed upon an already covenanted piece of land. “It was such a ridiculous scenario to be in because these original [old] covenants held no weight, and would not have protected hardly anything at all…especially the trees which we were wanting to fully protect! All we were wanting from our Local Government was an upgrade (so-to-speak) of the original covenants to bring them into the 21st century. After much frustration trying to get some sense out of anyone at the Council, we actually debated whether to cease this application altogether and stop the whole project. In hindsight, it would most likely have been the cheaper alternative, because as it eventuated, we had to take the matter all the way to the Environment Court. It wasn’t until January’08 that everything was finalised with the Environment Court finding in our favour, and hence today, the delay in our first lot of planting”, the Hamilton’s reported.
Up until 2009, Coast to Coast Tours had been the only tourism company in their region that had ever attended the annual event TRENZ, (Tourism Rendezvous in New Zealand). In 2008, to celebrate their ‘New Product’ of Native tree planting, the company donated a tree to each Buyer appointment they secured; (around 45 trees in total). Other tree donations have been made over the past twelve months e.g.; Tree #B60 for Earth Hour, Tree #B90 for Sky Network Country Channel, Tree #B91 Crystal Seas travel, #C09 for Conservation Week 2009, and always, as part of the Coast to Coast Tours cruise boat Shore Excursion group tours, a complimentary tree is included for a group planting, such as the Janet Lanterman Cruise Specialist group.
“It’s a nice inclusion to make for our cruise boat groups”, says Donna, “these folks have been travelling with us as a group for the day and they can not only be part owners of a tree and see its progress later on our website, but know they have contributed to making their shore excursion more sustainable. There are no other tours just 40 minutes from the heart of downtown Auckland where this hands-on experience can be done”.
Already this Auckland Eco farm tour is onto tree tags C.
“With 100 tags in a ‘run’ it’s great to see the trees being planted. It’s not only proving to be popular, but it’s something that will be (in years to come), a benefit to the whole local community. It’s certainly cementing our sense of sustainability and custodianship of the area where we live”, the Hamilton’s happily testify.