In response the Milford Opportunity Project (MOP) was established in 2017 to look at sustainable ways of managing the tourism impact and preserving the majestic environment.
Created by the Southland District Council, the MOP group includes Ngāi Tahu, various local councils, New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), the Ministry for Business, Employment and Innovation (MBIE) and the Department of Conservation (DOC).
A team from WSP delivered the MOP Master Plan and Catherine played a pivotal role in defining the vision, values and outline. The Master Plan is founded on seven key pillars that weave the importance of people and place with visitor experience.
“We want visitors to Piopiotahi to have a world-class experience that fits with the unique natural environment and rich cultural values of the region. It should feel untouched and allow them to feel the true essence, beauty and wonder of Piopiotahi and Murihiku/Southland, through curated story-telling, sympathetic infrastructure and wide choices suited to multi-day experiences.”
Specific initiatives will be activated in the next phase of the project, which is one of the first to be funded by the International Visitor Levy. Introduced in July 2019, most international visitors entering New Zealand will be charged a levy of $35 that will be invested in sustainable tourism and conservation projects.
Catherine says MOP is a once in a lifetime chance to create and define the visitor experience, one that’s rooted in sustainable principals, with māna whenua values woven through. In turn, an improved visitor experience will become a catalyst for funding conservation growth and community prosperity throughout the region. Another key area of focus is to ensure that activities and infrastructure are adaptive and resilient to change and risk, such as avalanche and flood risks.
“Through delivering this plan we developed a deeper passion and personal connection with the landscape and its people. We were inspired to find creative solutions to ensure that Piopiotahi/Milford Sound would continue to reflect Aotearoa New Zealand as it was, forever.”