Fundraising platform gives visitors option to give back

by Lauren Pattemore - Apr 03, 2023

The natural beauty is largely what brings them here, yet the act of coming can compromise that, now tourists to the Southern Lakes are being given an opportunity to give back and help fund local environmental projects.

Members of the community have increasingly voiced their concerns about the extractive nature of tourism whilst understanding local businesses and workers rely on it, and that it's vital to the nation's economy. But in a district that treasures the stunning wilderness areas right on its doorstep, the community's potentially more protective than most.

Around the country there's a shift towards growing regenerative tourism - the idea that visitors to an area can leave it better than when they found it - and tourism outfitters in the Southern Lakes have come up with a plan to allow local tourists to get onboard with the kaupapa.

Ash Bickley, who's charged with coordinating the new community fund, says there's long been philanthropic visitors coming to the area, but nowhere for them to easily give to.

That changes tomorrow (April 4), when an online giving platform will launch, with posters and donation cards set to go up around partnering local businesses, visitor centers, and the Queenstown Airport, all with a QR code taking them straight to the giving platform.

Speaking at a celebratory event for the fund on Friday afternoon, Queenstown Airport chief executive Glen Sowry says the signage at the airport will be the first and last impression for those flying in and out of the area.

He’s hopeful visitors will feel a desire to give back.

The fund is a joint initiative between Destination Queenstown and Lake Wānaka Tourism, called Love Queenstown and Love Wānaka.

There will also be mention of the fund on the Destination Queenstown and Lake Wānaka Tourism websites, as well as those of local businesses that opt-in.

And there's opportunity for visitors to gift their time and effort as well as money as the platform will advertise volunteer opportunities and local events in the area with a sustainability focus.

Where will the money go?

Money donated to the fund will be managed separately by the Wakatipu Community Foundation, and organisations working in the conservation, biodiversity and climate action spaces will be invited to apply for grants.

Key players behind the new tourism fund: (Left to right) Jennifer Belmont of the Wakatipu Community Foundation, Love Queenstown/Wānaka coordinator Ash Bickley, Lake Wānaka Tourism general manager Tim Barker and Destination Queenstown chief executive Mat Woods.

Applications for the first round of grants is expected to open in September this year, with money divvied up in December.

The idea initially came from local adventure tourism business owner Mark Morrison of WildWire Wānaka.

On a wet-weathered trip to the West Coast, Mr Morrison picked up Let My People Go Surfing, a book on the shelf of his friend’s hut.

It’s authored by Yvon Chouinard, the owner of Patagonia, who along with Blue Ribbon Flies founder Craig Matthews launched a global fund called “The 1% Project”, encouraging businesses to give back to the environment.

Its name is inspired by its business model - giving one percent of their gross sales back to environmental organisations.

When asked at the event on Friday, DQ chief executive Mat Woods would not disclose the number of businesses that had signed up, but that many were in the conversation stage of the project and hadn’t come on board officially yet.

Lake Wānaka Tourism general manager Tim Barke talked to Crux about the fund in November, saying it would seek to mirror the marae experience, where visitors are encouraged to build a relationship with the people and the place hosting.

Post-Covid, the rhetoric around what success looked like for local businesses shifted from purely being about bed nights and the amount of money being injected into the economy to how could the industry better service the community.

He said the pandemic had forced the organisation to rethink the way the direction tourism was taking.

“We had the potential to erode the foundations that we need and rely on; the environmental, climactic, but also community sentiment.”

Main image: Destination Queenstown and Lake Wānaka Tourism launch a new community fund that will be bolstered by donations from tourists.

Advertise with Crux Advertise with Crux