Toitu te whenua (Leave the land undisturbed).
A growing number of people enjoy outdoor recreation. Many of us like to visit our rural, backcountry, coastal and road-end areas. With this rise in use has come an increasing impact on the natural environment. Damaged plants, unsightly rubbish, eroding short cuts, polluted water, and deteriorating facilities are now more common.
Fortunately, along with the increase in the number of visitors, a more sensitive attitude to the environment is developing. Many picnickers, trampers, hunters, walkers, campers and other visitors to our natural areas realise that we must adopt a more caring attitude to the environment.
To help protect our natural environment, please follow these guidelines on your visit.
Protect Plants and Wildlife
You may be among those who really like to visit natural areas. If you are, always remember that these areas are also home to many other species. Whether tramping through rain forest, picnicking beside a river, or swimming at the beach, you are a visitor in someone's home.
New Zealand's forests and birds are unique. They are national treasures. Damaging or removing plants not only destroys part of the environment, it is illegal in most parts of the country.
Many areas are fragile and may take years to recover from damage. Wherever possible, find a way around alpine herb fields, moss beds, and coastal and wetland plants.
Rubbish is one of the biggest threats to our natural areas. It's no longer acceptable to burn or bury rubbish or leave it for others to remove. Litter is unpleasant and encourages rats and mice, wasps and disease. It can also injure wildlife and human visitors. You can help protect the natural environment by carrying your rubbish out of the bush or taking it home after a picnic. Many areas operate a system which supplies you with carryout rubbish bags. If the area you are visiting does not supply bags, take an empty waterproof bag with you to bring out your rubbish.
It is easy to reduce the impact of rubbish:
- Plan you visits to cut down on potential rubbish. Repack food into bags or re-useable containers to avoid cans, plastic, and glass waste.
- Carry out what you carry in.
- If you come across other people's rubbish, do the area a favour: remove their rubbish as well.
Keep Streams and Lakes Clean
In parts of New Zealand, toilet wastes and rubbish contamination have already polluted the water in our lakes, rivers and waterfalls.
To lessen the risk of contamination and to protect water quality:
- Where there is a toilet, use it.
- In areas without toilet facilities bury your toilet waste. Choose a place at least 50 metres from tracks, huts, camping sites, popular areas and water sources. Dig a shallow hole 150mm deep with the soil's organic layer and bury all toilet waste and paper. This will stop the waste contaminating water sources. Using a small trowel will make it easier to bury toilet waste.
- When using water for washing yourself or your utensils, take the water and wash well away from the water source. Drain used water into the soil so that it is filtered before re-entering the lake or stream.
- As soaps and detergents are harmful to water life and other users, these should also be drained into the soil.
The chances of contracting Giardia from water in New Zealand are increasing. Giardia is a parasite which can survive in cold water and it is mainly spread as a result of poorly disposed toilet waste. In infects the intestines, causing chronic diarrhoea, nausea, stomach cramps, and dehydration.
The presence of this parasite, or other disease-causing bugs, in our waterways can seriously harm our health and enjoyment. To lessen their spread, it is essential to dispose of toilet waste correctly.
If you doubt the purity of the water for drinking you can:
- Boil the water for at least 3 minutes before drinking.
- Chemically treat the water with purifying agents available from chemists and outdoor supply shops.
- Filter the water through an approved filter system.
If you suspect that you have Giardia, see your doctor.
Take Care with Stoves and Fires
Fire is one of the greatest threats to our natural environment. The devastating effects of fire are obvious. It is up to everyone to be careful with fires, cigarettes, and matches. Fire bans and other fire regulations are there to protect us all.
The use of fires for cooking, warmth or atmosphere has environmental consequences. Fires use up wood, destroy insects and other animal life, and they can scar sites with blackened and charred fire places. Fallen wood, especially larger branches and logs, is the source of food and shelter for many forest insects and plants.
Many more visitors to the back-country and rural areas are realising it is important to reduce their use of fires.
- Take portable fuel stoves for cooking; they are fast, clean, efficient, and reduce the risk of wildfire.
- Know how to operate your stove safely to protect yourself and the environment. Use stoves at least 2 metres from dry vegetation.
- Carry out empty fuel cartridges.
If you must use a fire:
- Be aware of fire bans and the higher fire risk during summer months. You may need a permit for your fire. Contact the local Department of Conservation or Council for details.
- Keep fires small and efficient. Use existing fire places if possible.
- Use only dead wood. Select wood from riverbeds or areas where wood is plentiful.
- Make sure the fire is completely out by dousing it with water and checking the ashes are cold. Dismantle the fire site, and scatter unburnt wood before leaving the area.
- NEVER leave fires unattended.
New Zealand's back-country users are fortunate to have a large network of tracks, huts and campsites. The fees paid for staying at campsites and huts are used to maintain these facilities. Cooperation between visitors is an important part of sharing campsites and huts.
Practise "No Trace" camping:
- Use campsites where they are provided.
- Use modern equipment that doesn't damage the environment and helps you be self-reliant. Cutting vegetation for tent poles and sleeping areas is not necessary.
- Leave the area in as natural a state as possible. It is kind to the environment and appreciated by other visitors.
- Camp on hard or sandy surfaces.
- Keep your camping sites compact; do not clutter up an area and spoil the atmosphere for others.
When using huts:
- Be considerate of other hut users.
- Treat huts with respect; leave them tidy and clean.
- Enter intentions in the hut books.
Keep to the Track
It is easy to reduce your impact on the environment. Before you visit a road-end or back-country area consider the following:
- Remember that smaller parties have less impact on the environment and other users.
- Stay on established tracks where possible, as this confines any damage.
- Get permission if you have to cross private or leasehold land.
- Use gates or styles where provided.
- Move carefully around livestock.
Consider Other People
People visit back-country and road-end areas for different reasons. Be considerate of other visitors who want to enjoy that natural environment.
Respect Our Cultural Heritage
Many places in New Zealand have special spiritual or historical significance. Some places are sacred to Maori, while others have important European values. Recognise the spiritual or historical significance of these places and treat them with respect. Learning about places you visit will help you understand and respect the value they hold for others.
Protect the environment for your own sake, for the sake of those who come after you, and for the environment itself.
"The land is the property of a great family, some of whom are living, a few of whom are dead, most of whom are yet to come".
Ten Point Checklist
- Protect Plants and Animals
Treat New Zealand's forest and birds with care and respect. They are unique and often rare.
- Remove Rubbish
Litter is unattractive, harmful to wildlife and can increase vermin and disease. Plan your visits to reduce rubbish, and carry out what you carry in.
- Bury Toilet Waste
In areas without toilet facilities, bury your toilet waste in a shallow hole well away from waterways, tracks, campsites and huts.
- Keep Streams and Lakes Clean
When cleaning and washing, take the water and wash well away from the water source. Because soaps and detergents are harmful to water-life, drain used water into the soil to allow it to be filtered. If you suspect the water may be contaminated, either boil it for at least 3 minutes, or filter it, or chemically treat it.
- Take Care With Fires
Portable fuel stoves are less harmful to the environment and are more efficient than fires. If you do use a fire, keep it small, use only dead wood and make sure it is out by dousing it with water and checking the ashes before leaving.
- Camp Carefully
When camping, leave no trace of your visit.
- Keep to the Track
By keeping to the track, where one exists, you lessen the chance of damaging fragile plants.
- Consider Others
People visit the backcountry and rural areas for many reasons. Be considerate of other visitors who also have a right to enjoy the natural environment.
- Respect Our Cultural Heritage
Many places in New Zealand have a spiritual and historical significance. Treat these places with consideration and respect.
- Enjoy Your Visit
Enjoy your outdoor experience. Take a last look before leaving an area; will the next visitor know that you have been